What is the best way to keep my child safe around swimming pools?
An adult should actively watch children at all times while they are in a pool. For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water and within arm’s reach, providing “touch supervision.” For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, like talking on the phone, socializing, tending household chores, or drinking alcohol. The supervising adult must know how to swim.
If you have a pool, insist that the following rules are followed:
- Keep toys away from the pool when the pool is not in use.
- Empty blow-up pools after each use.
- No tricycles or other riding toys at poolside.
- No electrical appliances near the pool.
- No diving in a pool that is not deep enough.
- No running on the pool deck.
Children can climb out a window, through a doggy door, or sneak out a door to get to the back yard and the pool. To prevent small children from entering the pool area on their own, there should be a fence that completely surrounds the pool or spa. Combined with the watchful eyes of an adult, a fence is the best way to protect your child and other children who may visit or live nearby.
Pool fences should also:
- Be climb-resistant and should not have anything alongside it (such as lawn furniture) that can be used to climb it.
- Be at least 4 feet high and have no footholds or handholds that could help a child climb it.
- Have no more than 4 inches between vertical slats. Chain-link fences are very easy to climb and are not recommended as pool fences. If they must be used, the diamond shape should not be bigger than 1¾ inches.
- Have a gate that is well maintained and is self-closing and self-latching. It should only open away from the pool. The latches should be higher than a child can reach – 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.
- For above-ground pools always keep children away from steps or ladders. When the pool is not in use, lock or remove the ladders to prevent access by children.
Other protection products, when used with an “isolation” fence, may be of some benefit; however, these are not substitutes for adequate fencing. These may include the following:
- Automatic pool covers (motorized covers operated by a switch). Pool covers should cover the entire pool so that a child can’t slip under them. Make sure there is no standing water on top of the pool cover. Be aware that floating solar covers are not safety covers.
- Door alarms
- Doors to the house that are self-closing/self-latching
- Window guards
- Pool alarms
Swimming Lessons – Where We Stand
Children need to learn to swim. The AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older, and for children 1 to 4 years of age who are ready to learn how to swim. Keep in mind that because children develop at different rates, each child will be ready to swim at her own time.
Some factors you may consider before starting swimming lessons for younger children include:
- Frequency of exposure to water
- Emotional maturity
- Physical limitations
- Health concerns related to swimming pools (for example, swallowing water, infections, pool chemicals)
While some swim programs claim to teach water survival skills to children less than 12 months old, evidence does not show that they are effective in preventing drowning. Swim lessons do not provide “drown-proofing” for children of any age, so supervision and other layers of protection are necessary even for children who have learned swimming skills.
Serious spinal cord injuries, permanent brain damage, and death can occur to swimmers who dive into shallow water or spring upward on the diving board and hit it on the way down.
Keep safe by following these simple common-sense diving rules.
- Check how deep the water is. Enter the water feet first, especially when going in for the first time.
- Never dive into above-ground pools; they are usually not deep enough.
- Never dive into the shallow end of a pool.
- Never dive through inner tubes or other pool toys.
- Learn how to dive properly by taking classes.
- Last Updated
- A Parent’s Guide to Water Safety (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics, Updated 08/2013)