News Release

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Precautions can prevent drownings, pool injuries

Many Houston children welcome summer vacations by heading off to the closest swimming pool. The Houston Department of Health and Human Services reminds parents that constant supervision is the most important key to preventing childhood drownings and other swimming pool injuries.

In Harris County, drowning was the second leading cause of fatal unintentional injury in children during 1998 and 1999, according to a recent report by the Houston/Harris County Child Fatality Review Team. The report also found that failure to provide adequate supervision contributed to 66 percent of the drownings.

While supervising children playing in pools, it is recommended parents cease other distracting activities such as reading, mowing a lawn, working on vehicles or even talking on the phone. Children can drown without making any noise.

Other safety precautions to keep in mind while children play in swimming pools include:

Never run or play fight around wet pool surfaces.

Keep toys and pets away from the pool as these may tempt children to lean into the pool or cause them to trip and fall.

To prevent choking, never chew gum or eat while swimming, diving or playing in water.

Enroll children aged 4 or older in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. Swimming classes are not recommended for children under 4 and do not necessarily make a child "drown-proof."

Advise children that they should never swim alone or in unsupervised places. Parents should teach children to always swim with a buddy.

Install a pool fence with vertical bars no more than four inches apart and a door that closes and latches automatically. Avoid leaving chairs or other furniture next to the fence as a child could use them to climb over and enter the pool.

Learn CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation. This applies to parents and pool owners.

Diving accidents could leave someone a quadriplegic or cause a children to hit their head on a shallow bottom. It is recommended children enter pools feet first or hands forward to guide themselves toward the surface and avoid hitting the bottom or sides of the pool.

Children must never dive into inflatable or aboveground pools; they are too shallow and not designed for diving. The American Red Cross recommends nine feet as minimum depth for diving or jumping.

It is important to empty inflatable and smaller plastic pools popular with younger children immediately after use. An infant or toddler can drown in as little as one inch of water. Parents must deflate or turn them over to prevent rain from accumulating in them.

Buckets used for household chores should always be empty too as these also pose a risk.