Parents urged to be water aware
Drowning accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, are on the rise throughout the state and county as the pandemic has prompted families and children to spend more time in Florida homes, many of which are equipped with pools or near the water.
Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1-4, and between March 1 through June 30 of 2020, 29 children have fatally drowned in the state according to WaterSmartFL, an extension of the Department of Health.
According to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of children ages 1 to 4 who drowned in 2020 rose steadily throughout the summer, likely due to families staying home due to COVID-19.
There have been a total of 44 child fatalities this year due to drowning, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. All were 6 years old or younger.
While no children have died in Lee County this year due to drowning, local health officials have seen incidents involving water increase in the area and throughout the state.
“We are seeing an increase in drowning locally,” said Sally Kreuscher, Safe Kids coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
There’s no shortage of water for the youth to explore in Southwest Florida, whether that be in a child’s backyard or on a camping trip. COVID-19 has kept many families only leaving the house for essentials. Parents are working from home and watching their children simultaneously, leaving the possibility for a child to be unnoticed for a brief moment. Kreuscher said the county has seen instances where young adults are watching children and accidents have happened.
“Any time there is access to water you should have an adult actively supervising children and have layers of protection,” Kreuscher said. “Kids are quick and are attracted to water. We live in sunny Southwest Florida, it’s hot, so we find activities for kids that involve swimming.”
Kreuscher said it is vital for adults to properly secure their pool area after use, including toys being cleaned up so not to entice a child to play, and proper security latches on gating.
Home drowning prevention tips from Safe Kids Lee/Collier include:
• Always stay within an arm’s reach of your child when he or she is in or near the bathtub, toilet, pools, spas or buckets. Never leave your child alone or in the care of older children during bath time.
• Once bath time is over, immediately drain the tub.
• Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside-down and out of children’s reach.
• Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks.
• Never leave your child unattended in a tub or around any other body of water.
• Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
• Children in baby bath seats and rings must be watched every second.
September is also Baby Safety Month throughout the U.S., and teaching your child how to swim, or water safety survival tools, can play a big role if an unexpected situation ever arose.
“We understand that swim lessons at a very young age isn’t just about water comfort and bonding — it’s about safety and survival, both for the infants and for their parents,” said Bridget Davis, owner of Goldfish Swim School of Bonita Springs. “No one wants to think about what could happen if their baby falls into a pool or slips in a bathtub, but you can prevent those worst-case-scenarios head on by enrolling in swim lessons and being vigilant about water safety. Our hope at Goldfish Swim School is to raise awareness for families during Baby Safety Month to help change the outcomes.”
In addition to offering small group and family swim lessons, Goldfish Swim School recently built a new program with national partners called Goldfish RX. With Goldfish RX, Goldfish Swim School of Bonita Springs is building relationships with pediatricians across the region by providing educational material needed to promote doctor-patient conversations around drowning prevention, the importance of water safety, and the value of infant and toddler swim lessons.
“It’s time for essential change throughout our community. Drowning deaths are preventable and, at Goldfish Swim School, we want to be part of the solution. Together we can change the conversation and save lives,” Davis said.
Goldfish Swim School provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to infants and children ages 4 months to 12 years, teaching more than 100,000 children how to be safer in and around the water. Each school offers swim lessons and programs using a proprietary philosophy, The Science of “SwimPlay,” to build life skills both in and out of the water using play-based learning in a fun and safe environment. The franchise network spans more than 86 locations across North America and each school’s focus and main priority is always the same — educating children on water safety while teaching them how to swim and respect the water.
For more information on Goldfish Swim School of Bonita Springs and water safety, visit https://www.goldfishswimschool.com/bonita-springs/.
For more drowning prevention tips, visit http://safekidsswfl.org/drowning-prevention/.
–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj