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Children's Health and Wellness

Avoid That Sinking Feeling: How to Keep Children Safe around Water

girl getting swimming lessons in pool
girl getting swimming lessons in pool

Children under the age of five are disproportionately represented in drowning fatality statistics. Don’t let your child become a statistic.

As summer approaches, more Canadian families are spending time near or on the water as a great way to escape the seasonal heat. However, heightened exposure to bodies of water can also lead to safety concerns. As responsible parents and guardians, we must stay aware of the safety issues at play and do what we can to mitigate the risks.

The issue and the risks

Although water-related deaths in Canada have been on a steady downward trend since 2012, the drowning rate in children from zero to four years old has remained consistent. For example, in the most recent four-year span of data available, unintentional water deaths claimed the lives of 20 children within this age group — a rate of 1.0 fatality per 100,000 population. By comparison, the age group of five to nine years old has a rate of 0.4 fatalities per 100,000 population.

According to the Lifesaving Society of Canada, the risk factors most associated with this age group center around a lack of appropriate supervision. This risk sometimes takes the form of no supervision whatsoever but can also include distracted supervision and a lack of age-appropriate supervision where the child is accompanied only by other minors.

Safety tips

Logically, it follows that the best tip to remove this risk factor is to ensure constant, active, and present supervision from a responsible adult. Drowning can occur quickly and quietly — even more so where children are concerned. This makes it of vital importance that the supervisor’s attention never wavers. Even something as innocuous as leaving to answer a phone call can have devastating consequences.

If you must leave the area or divide your attention, ensure that your child is safely out of the water. Additionally, any open body of water should be appropriately fenced or gated off to ensure the child does not accidentally enter without an adult nearby.

Enrol your child in swimming lessons from an early age. This is a lifelong skill that will serve them well both in the shorter term and the longer term as well.  

Lastly, while avoiding the problem altogether is always better, it’s also a good idea to ensure you know what to do if an emergency strikes. Learn CPR. In those few seconds after pulling a child from a potential drowning situation, proper application of CPR may save their life.

Enjoy the water safely this summer!

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