Keep your child safe when swimming

Expert advice on how to keep babies, toddlers and preschoolers safe in the water plus paddling pool safety

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There’s a lot of fun to be had when you take your kids swimming, but it’s also a time when you have to be especially alert. With a little help from experts at the Amateur Swimming Association, here’s how to make sure your kids stay safe.

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Baby’s first dip

  • Watch out for signs of chilling, including shivering, blueness around the lips and chattering teeth.
  • Watch your baby’s face carefully – it’s much closer to the water than yours and if you get distracted her mouth and nose can easily go under the water.

Golden pool rules for under 5s

  • Always check the qualifications of the swimming teachers to ensure they hold a specialist ASA qualification for water activities for children under the age of 5.
  • Constant supervision is essential. Although drownings in pools are rare, evidence suggests that toddlers are the most vulnerable. It’s not sufficient to rely on the supervision of the lifeguard at the poolside.
  • Have a talk with your child before you get to the pool to make sure she knows that she mustn’t run about at the edge of the pool.
  • Fit support or buoyancy aids before she gets in the water, and if you use armbands make sure they can’t slide off and are on the upper arm only. All buoyancy aids should meet safety standards – look for British Safety number BS EN 13138:2003.
  • Children with long hair should have it tied back and preferably be wearing a swimming cap. In some tragic cases, a child’s hair has got caught in sumps, trapping her under the water. For the same reason, remove all jewellery.
  • Don’t let your kids chew gum or eat while in the pool area.

Paddling pools

Although parents generally know that they need to constantly supervise young children in water, accidents tend to happen after the pool’s been used. ‘Between the ages of 1 and 2, an infant’s mobility increases at a terrific but irregular rate, such that she can escape parents’ supervision and get into difficulties unexpectedly fast,’ says a spokesperson from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. ‘So paddling pools should always be emptied and turned upside down straight after use.’

Mum’s story

‘If you can’t supervise your child for a moment, nominate just one adult to do it. When my daughter Rebecca was 3, I asked her grandma and two aunts to watch her. To my horror, as I was swimming with my nephew in the sea, I saw Rebecca totter alone to the edge of the waves and get knocked flat. Her grandma and aunts all thought one of the others was watching her.’

Jane, mum to Rebecca, now 6

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3 reasons to  think twice before you take your child swimming…

  • She has a bit of a cold. Current advice is that babies with even mild upper respiratory conditions should avoid public pools.
  • She has sensitive skin or eczema. Some people’s eczema is made worse by the chlorine in swimming pools. The British Association of Dermatologists suggests you rinse your child’s skin well in the shower afterwards and apply an emollient cream immediately after towelling dry to ‘trap’ moisture into your child’s skin. Alternatively, look for a pool that uses another disinfectant method, such as Ozone.
  • She has a cut or sore. If your baby, tot or older child has a cut or open sore, they shouldn’t go in public pools.

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