Swim Safety

By Sara Vigneri

As temperatures heat up, your family is probably ready to dig out the swimsuits and head for the water. From baby pools to the roaring ocean, it’s hard to keep adventurous kids from diving in. Afternoons of swimming and splashing can be a lot of fun, but even a shallow amount of water such as in a bathtub or baby pool can be extremely dangerous.

According to the latest statistics by the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of death among children under five, which includes everything from swimming pools to bathtubs.

Infants are natural swimmers and more readily accept getting dunked in water than older kids. Babies automatically hold their breath and make swimming movements, according to Penny Pantano, owner of Swim-in Zone who has taught swimming for over 40 years.

However, these reflex behaviors begin to fade at three months and are completely gone by five months of age so it’s important to introduce your baby to the water at this stage. “With a child age three and under you can work on putting water over their head in the tub, laying back to get water in their ears and bubbling,” says Pantano.

Start Swim Lessons

Now is the perfect time to start swimming lessons. After a long winter spent cooped up indoors, kids are itching to get active and the chance to get in the water will seem like a treat. Lessons in an indoor pool give allow them to get acclimated so that they are ready to jump in the pool once summer hits.

Kids under the age of five typically swim by kicking, and use their arms for direction, if they use their arms at all. So don’t expect them to learn proper stroke technique. Rather, they will learn to get comfortable underwater and keep themselves afloat. Once a child hits the age of four or five, they begin to develop the motor skills needed to learn swimming techniques – this is the age where they might start using an overarm stroke and possibly swim using a freestyle or back stroke. Older children who are confident in the pool can benefit from learning advance stroke techniques that will prove useful in challenging water conditions like lakes and oceans.

There are plenty of options in the Lehigh Valley for indoor swimming lessons, it’s simply a matter of finding a program and a teacher that suits your child’s needs.

The Rodale Aquatic Center’s Swim School follows the American Red Cross Learn to Swim Program consisting of six levels–children progress from basic water safety in level one to advanced swimming technique and diving in level six.

The JCC of Allentown offers swim teams for children as young as 5, with the option of joining a developmental team for those still honing their skills, or a more competitive USA Swimming team.

For more advanced technique, The Emmaus Aquatic Club offers SwimAmerica, a national program from the American Swimming Coaches Association that helps train swimmers for the USA Olympic team.

And for kids who are afraid of getting into the water, Swim-in Zone’s pool has 50 feet of steps and ledge so that even the most skittish child feels comfortable in the pool.

While it is vital to teach your children to swim, keep in mind that swimming lessons cannot drown proof your child.

Consider these suggestions to help ensure safe summertime fun.

Never Leave Children Unattended

Whether you are in your own backyard or at a community pool, young children need constant supervision. Children can drown in matter of minutes which is why it is good to practice ‘touch supervision’ with children younger than six years old. Touch supervision means you should be within an arm’s length of your children at all times.

Always Use Life Vests Or Life Jackets If You Don’t Know How To Swim

Do not rely on inflatable devices such as inner tubes or armbands to keep you afloat.

Watch The Weather

Even if it is not raining, get out of water at the first sight of lighting or sound of thunder. And, wait 30 minutes after the last strike of lightning to get back into water.

Be Prepared For Emergencies

Learn CPR and make sure there is a telephone and rescue equipment – such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver – on hand at all times.

Swimming And Partying Do Not Mix

Do not allow horseplay or alcohol at the pool. If you are having a swim party, designate one person to be the “pool watcher” at all times.

Jump In Feet First

Teach children to jump in feet first and never to dive into unfamiliar water.

Water may be more shallow than you think or there may be underwater objects that could cause serious injury. And don’t jump in if you can’t see the bottom. You never know what you’ll encounter.

Keep Your Pool Secure

Install a fence at least five feet high around your in-ground pool. It is a good idea to have a gate that self-closes and self-latches, with the latch higher than a child’s reach. If you own an above-ground pool, remove the ladder when the pool is not in use. Consider installing an alarm to alert you when someone gets near the pool or in the water. Also, make sure your pool has built-in safety devices such as raised drain covers and safety vacuum release devices to help prevent children from getting trapped.

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram