Doctors’ Notes


Swimming Pool Safety

Everyone loves a day full of swimming in the summer, but as we’re having all that fun, we need to remember how to stay safe in and around the water.

Drowning is the number 2 cause of accidental death in children 15 and under. So here are some things to remember to help your family stay safe this Summer.

Adult Supervision

When children are swimming, an adult should always bewatching. It’s easy to get distracted by phone calls, texts, and email alerts, butwhen a child is in the pool or even around open water, distractions need to becut out. For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the pool within arm’sreach at all times. The adult, who is supervising, should also know how to swimand know CPR in case of an emergency.


Having a fence completely surrounding a pool is a great ideato keep children away and prevent them from entering the area without a supervising adult. These fences should be climbing-proof, and lawn furniture or anything else that can be used as a stepping stool should be kept away from the fence. (Chain link fences are not recommended for pools, as they are very easy to climb.) Fences should be at least 4 feet high and have no more than 4 inches between the slats.

Gates should be self-closing and open away from the pool. Latches should be kept high enough that children can’t reach. (A good recommendation is 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.) When the pool is above-ground, the ladder/stairs should either belocked or removed to keep kids from climbing in. Some other things that can be used as a barrier include door alarms, window guards, and pool alarms.

Safety Rules

Good rules for pool safety include: keeping toys away from the pool when the pool is not in use; emptying blow-up pools when the day is finished; keeping bikes, trikes, or any other riding toys away from the pool; prohibiting running around on the pool deck; keeping electronics away from the pool (for kids and adults).

Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons are a good idea for kids. Some tragedies can be prevented if children know how to swim. (But remember: just because a child has had swim lessons, that doesn’t make them “drowning-proof.” Adult supervision is still key!)

For some good advice on this subject, see Dr. Wolf’s Note on Teaching Kids to Swim.

Diving Safety

Many injuries, including spinal cord injuries, brain damage, and death, occur each year from diving. It’s always important to know how deep water is, and to enter feet first when going in for the first time. Never dive into above ground pools, as they are more than likely not deep enough. Never dive into the shallow end of a pool. Never dive into pool toys or inner tubes. Always learn how to dive properly and safely before attempting it.

Some Other Good Safety Tips

  • Any time a child is missing check the pool first. Scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, and the entire surrounding pool area. Seconds will count in this situation!
  • Floatation devices are fine, but should never replace adult supervision.
  • Any caregivers, including babysitters, grandparents, and older siblings should all know CPR! Many hospitals or community centers offer CPR classes, including Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
  • Keep rescue equipment near the pool, including a phone with an emergency number.
  • Always listen for noise when kids are playing in water; if it gets quiet, find out why!

What Does Drowning Look Like?

Most of the time, drowning does not look like the media’s portrayal of it. People who are thrashing and yelling are going through what is known as aquatic distress. This will not last long, but while in this stage, people can still assist with their own rescue.

Most of the time a drowning person will not be able to call out for help, as they will be trying to catch their breath and speech becomes secondary. When someone is drowning, his or her mouth will be rising and falling below water, and their mouth will not be above water long enough to call for help. Most likely they will be exhaling and inhaling quickly before falling again below the water’s surface.

Most of the time, arm movements while drowning, are not  voluntary. A drowning person will have a hard time waving for help and reaching for rescue equipment.

Most people can only stay above water 20-60 seconds before submersion into the water occurs

Other signs you may see:

  • Eyes glassy unable to focus or eyes closed
  • Hair over the eyes and forehead
  • Hyperventilating or gasping for air
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Head low in water with mouth at water level

For more detail on this subject, see the excellent essay by Mario Vittone, “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning,” that we post every summer on the Kids Plus Facebook page.

Finally: stay safe, have fun this summer, and give us a call in the office if you have any questions or concerns.

Brianna Rothbauer is a former Kids Plus Provider.