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Little Swimmer in the Pool. Caucasian Girl Learn to Swim

Summertime signals outdoor fun time and children will be looking forward to swimming, so read on for valuable advice on how to stay safe in the water.

Drowning is the second highest cause of unnatural death in children in South Africa. In our balmy South African climate where we swim a lot, children are often exposed to the dangers water can pose. It is vital that children are equipped with the knowledge and skills to keep them safe in the water.

be present

To ensure your child’s safety, you should ensure that you are always there when they are swimming. You should also prepare yourself to deal with emergency situations by taking a first-aid or CPR course. However, because of the unfortunate margin for human error – forgetting to close a pool gate properly or briefly turning your attention to a ringing phone – Netcare says that 90% of children who drown are under some sort of supervision at the time. So, the question is: how equipped is your child – how well can they swim? You can decrease the likelihood of your child drowning if you send them to swimming lessons and ensure they are taught basic water survival skills as early as possible.

Find out why you should keep your child swimming all-year round.

teach them to swim

Olympic gold swimming champion Ryk Neethling went to water safety classes after a near drowning incident at the age of six. It’s not surprising then that Ryk, who runs swimming schools in Pretoria and Cape Town, believes that water safety classes covering vital basics such as “floating and breathing, knowing how to correctly get out of the pool and always respecting the water”, should be taught to children from six months right up to seven years. This is a crucial time for your child to become a strong and confident swimmer.

Netcare reports that many of the drowning calls it receives, especially inland, are for children between the ages of two and eight years old. Netcare also found that most drowning cases involved children who were not used to being around swimming pools.

Childsafe, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa, says: “Three-year-old children are vulnerable and constitute 45%  of the total reported drowning cases.” Drowning happens quickly and a child can drown in 4cm of water. Brain damage can occur within minutes.

Read out article about learning to swim for more info.

Swimming best practices (Courtesy of Childsafe)

  • Always supervise children near water, but especially at home. Less than two percent of near-drowning incidents occur at the beach, but a staggering 72%  happen at home.
  • Ensure your swimming pool is fully fenced with a self-closing and self-latching gate. You also get pool fences with SABS specifications.
  • Do not prop open pool fence gates.
  • Make sure there is nothing for your child to climb onto near the pool, such as pot plants or trees.
  • Ensure your child does not have access to the pool from the house.
  • If you do not want to make use of a fence, install a pool safety net. These should always be attached when the pool is not in use and, once it is removed, make sure children are supervised near it. Always use pool nets according to their instructions.
  • Never rely on flotation devices alone to protect your young child.
  • The fish pond should always be covered with mesh or a net to prevent infants from drowning.
  • Be sure to empty paddling pools after use or close them up safely.
  • If you live near natural hazards such as rivers, dams or a vlei, fence off your backyard or property.
  • When boating, make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket.
  • Learn CPR and be prepared for emergencies.

Find more tips about staying safe in the water and sun here

Lucille Kemp