All Woman

Beach/pool safety tips

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 23, 2012    

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THE beach can be a fun place to be as a child, and having access to a swimming pool is a luxury, which is especially appreciated during the summer time. But while both can be places for endless fun and enjoyment, they can also be dangerous.

Without a moment's notice, cool, tranquil blue water can become a mother's worse nightmare as a child can be easily sucked under, only to be found dead minutes or even days later. But despite stories of drowning, parents and guardians still continue to not take the necessary precautions to guarantee their children's safety. Oftentimes children are left without adult supervision to frolic in water with others their age, while their parents are otherwise engaged.

Don't allow your child to become a fatality this summer by making the mistake of not adequately safeguarding them at the beach or at the pool. If you have to send them to a summer camp, do your necessary checks to ensure that they will be accompanied by responsible adults and ascertain that a lifeguard is on location if permission is sought to take them to a public beach or pool.

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Here are some tips you should bear in mind in an effort to safeguard your child.

1. Never leave your child unsupervised in any body of water. A second is all it takes for them to run into difficulty while swimming. This rule also goes when they are in the bathtub at home as well. Manager for Swim Jamaica, Wendy Lee, explains that even the common practice of parents leaving their children in the bath to cool off during the summer is dangerous and should not be encouraged.

2. It costs more to go to a beach with lifeguards, but this is a small price to pay when you consider that you are possibly saving your child's life. Some popular public beaches do have lifeguards, so you can search these out if you really cannot afford the cost to access a private beach. However, Lee cautions that, "the lifeguard is a back-up, as ultimately you are responsible for your own child."

3. Do not allow them to venture too far out into the water since waves and currents can easily overtake them and carry them out of the reach of yourself or other adults. Ideally, you should test and make your own assessment of exactly what type of water you are sending your child into.

4. Never allow your child to dive into water, since there is no way to tell how deep the water is. If possible, take them to a beach as opposed to a fall or the river where there are a lot of rocks. This increases their chances of being hurt since they can easily hit their heads if they are not careful. "They should never dive headfirst into water that they have never been in before," warns Lee.

5. Protect your child from sunburn by slathering on the sunscreen before they head to the beach. Also re-apply sunscreen after they have come out of the water. This is a must no matter the colour of your child's skin.

6. Your child should always be equipped with a life jacket, even if they are on a boat. Ensure that the life jacket fits properly and is well strapped. Bear in mind that blow-up water toys, air mattresses and rafts cannot be substituted for a lifejacket.

7. It's always a good idea to know CPR and to learn how to swim so you can offer assistance in the event that your child gets into trouble while swimming. However, Lee points out that the rule is that, "before you give CPR, you should get help."

8. If you have a personal pool, always keep the pool area enclosed with a gate or proper fencing and never leave toys in the pool, because then your child might be tempted to reach for them.

9. When at the beach, advise your children not to touch any sea creatures they come across. Crabs, for example, can do a lot of harm to a curious child who just reaches out for a touch. "This is important not only because you are protecting your child, but remember that we are also trying to protect our oceans and wildlife," said Lee.

10. Bring a pair of ear plugs and goggles when taking children to the beach so they can prevent salt water from going in their ears and eyes. Also bring sandals to safeguard them from being cut by a broken bottle or other sharp implements while walking on the beach.

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