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Local drownings highlight need for water-safety lessons

The sad news of last Thursday's swimming-pool drowning of a Prince George's County boy and his uncle serves as a sobering reminder that the only way to keep kids -- and adults -- safe around water is to teach them basic swimming skills.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published its report on drowning deaths and how to prevent them in the July print edition of its journal Pediatrics. (The material was released online in May.) Noting that drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional-injury-related death among kids ages 1 to 19, the AAP urges basic swim lessons for kids 4 and older. And, in a policy shift, the AAP says there may be some value to teaching toddlers basic water skills, too, advising parents to decide for themselves whether to enroll their wee ones in formal classes.

Swim classes can be expensive. But they don't have to be. The Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Department, for instance, offers a number of free programs for county residents.

(Here's where to find information about swim and water-safety lessons offered in other areas: Howard County; Montgomery County; Fairfax County; District of Columbia.)

Of course, since we're nearing the end of summer, many of these classes are full. To tide you over until you can get your kid into a class, here are basic pool safety tips from Montgomery County.

That a 12-year-old boy wasn't able to handle himself well enough in the water to avoid drowning in a swimming pool -- and that his adult relative couldn't, either -- is hard to fathom. It's too late to save either of them. But let's hope their heart-wrenching example will spur others to ensure that they and their loved ones are better equipped.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  July 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Injury prevention , Kids' health , Teens  
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It is interesting that Mont. County has a pool safety brochure and dors not include a pole for reaching. In a smaller pool, one does not have to jump in to save someone.

Posted by: MarylandCommuter | July 26, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

It's also worth knowing what to look for when someone might be drowning. This: was eye-opening for me.

Posted by: em15 | July 26, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

When getting overwhelmed by water, the body tends to do what it naturally does when falling--extending itself, thus creating the thinnest possible profile in the water. Unfortunately, that is precisely what causes these frequently silent drownings. Teaching a young child to swim does not water-proof him or her, but it can teach the body not to panic and to maintain arm and leg movement which assists the lungs' natural buoyancy and keep the head above water.
A pole will not help an inexperienced swimmer. There is not pole that can support the dead weight of a human. It can assist an experienced swimmer experiencing disorientation to right him or herself.
The bottom line is that no one, not even a world class swimmer should swim alone and no parent should allow a small child outside of an arm's length distance in a pool.

Posted by: Tamberg | July 26, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

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