Smart swimming habits start at home. The best assurance that children will follow your words of wisdom is to set an example. If you're not a swimmer, showing respect for the risks and the knowledge of experts in other situations promotes the same attitude when kids take to the water.
- Use the pool only when an adult is present. For your part, make sure the adult is trustworthy and trained for emergencies.
- No horseplay in or around the pool. Pushing, splashing and other boisterous play can get out of hand. Children (and adults) may not distinguish between squeals of delight and screams of panic.
- Get inside if a storm threatens. Water and wet swimmers draw lightning.
- Always swim with a buddy. As with adult supervision, try to make sure the buddy is not a thrill seeker who'll push companions to take risks.
- Never drink pool water. Swimmers with poor hygiene can spread disease-causing germs, some of which can survive several days -- even in properly chlorinated water.
- Don't use friends' swimsuits or gear. Again, personal items can carry harmful germs.
- Watch for stinging and biting insects. Teach children to recognize and respect wasps and bees. Also, teach them to respond calmly if a biting bug menaces by either walking away or lightly brushing it off their skin.
- Stay away from the drain. Federal law requires that all public pools be equipped with drain covers and devices or systems that protect swimmers from the powerful suction of the pool's pump (a danger called entanglement). Every new drain cover must meet a similar standard. Private pools installed before 2008 don't have to be upgraded, though.
These measures may seem to eliminate every danger. Yet there's always that one-in-a-thousand case where the safeguards fail. If a child goes missing, check the pool first. The few minutes it takes can save the life of a child and a lifetime of pain and remorse for a family.