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Stay Safe around Water - Tips for Parents by Dr. Pence

July 30, 2019. Alamosa, Colorado.
     I was thrilled to see everyone out at Splashland Swimming Pool at our recent sun and water safety event with KZBR. Although it wasn’t the warmest day to be at the pool, our natural hot spring water sure was inviting and it was fun to see everyone making family time a priority! I know that my family too, enjoys going to the local pools and lakes to cool off on those warm summer days, but as a pediatrician, I also know that, after birth defects, drowning is the #1 cause of death in children ages 1-4. In the San Luis Valley we have 1-2 pediatric drownings every year and, at least four of those in the last 10 years, have not survived.

Pictured above are Mikaila Pence, MD, Pediatrician, SLV Health, her husband Dave and their son.

While most drownings occur in home swimming pools and hot tubs, not many of us here in the valley have those. For those that do, please don’t disregard manufacturer safety recommendations about fences, locked gates, and alarms. These save children from drowning. For those of us that use community swimming pools, take vacations to oceans and lakes, or choose to play in or around the local ponds, rivers, and ditches, don't forget that these too pose a risk of drowning for your child. Drowning can happen in just one inch of water and while most adults and older children are able to rescue themselves from a shallow body of water like that, our younger kids and kids with cognitive and physical handicaps are not.

The risk of your child drowning peaks between 18 months and 3 years of age! Children in this age range usually don’t know how to swim, and they don’t know that the water is not safe. Another risky age range is between 15 and 19 years of age if they didn’t learn how to swim and are under the influence of peer pressures or intoxicating substances.

A child needs to be within arm’s reach of a caregiver to be saved from drowning. Swimming lessons and life jackets save kids from drowning. We are fortunate to have several groups in our community that offer swimming lessons starting at four years of age - Hooper and Splashland swimming pools in the summertime as well as year-round with the Ski Hi Aquatics swim team, Adams State, and SLV Sports and Wellness.

We do have a few schools in the community that have suffered a drowning in their own schools and have made an incredible commitment to their students by offering two weeks of swimming lessons to every student during each of the elementary school years. I applaud this and would encourage other elementary schools to look at replicating this in their own school communities.

So, get out and enjoy the warm weather and water activities as a family but don't forget that you can’t be too cautious. I recommend swimming lessons every year starting at one year old and every year until they can jump off the diving board and swim back to you. Until then, please use a U.S Coast Guard-approved life jacket, make sure you too, know how to swim and are CPR trained in the event that your child or another child experiences a drowning event.