Azaleas are blooming and daylight savings is officially here, which means that summer is on its way. As Louisianans, we know temperatures in March can mean a pool day, so we need to talk about baby proofing your pool ASAP. This topic is a very tough one. Accidental drownings happen to amazing parents, loving parents, attentive parents. No one is safe from this. This is one area where we all need to be completely judgment free but vigilant in ensuring our babies are safe. Since I began my medical training, I have seen far too many babies come into the ER after an accidental drowning. It has affected me professionally and personally and I'm sure we all have a story about an accidental drowning or a close call.
Quite simply: Parents, pools are one of THE most important things to baby proof. Already baby proofed your pool? Time to double check. If you have a pool at home or even at the grandparents’ house, you must baby proof them immediately. (It's possible that my in-laws are still mad at me for destroying their desired backyard set up by forcing a fence on them…) Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how old your child is, maybe she’s two months and immobile, maybe he’s 10 years old and knows how to swim. It does not matter, the risk is not worth it. Baby proofing the pool is not 100% preventative, but it is a necessary step in lessening the risk of such an accident.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, as of Sept. 18, 2017, 163 children fatally drowned in a pool or spa last summer. This is such a gut-wrenching statistic and I can’t imagine what these parents go through. Like any accident, you always imagine what you could have done to prevent something so devastating. Sometimes small safety measures make a huge difference. In the case of a pool, prevention tactics are often more expensive than general baby proofing; but baby proofing your pool is worth every penny. The cost of a fence, for example, is always worth the protection it provides, when the worst case scenario presents itself.
Here are a few tips for baby proofing your pool and safe swimming.
1. Fences and Pool Covers
Put fencing around the perimeter of the pool. The fence should be at least 4 ft. high with no gaps. It should have a sturdy and baby proof latch on the inside to open and close the fence’s entrance to the pool. Look for self closing, self latching gates to ensure the fence stays closed at all times.
There are also motorized covers you can put over your pool. Just speak with a pool company in your area and ask them about information regarding that option.
2. Doors to Outside
Doors that open with pull down handles are much easier for children to operate as opposed to a knob that turns. A good option is to have a handyman change any door handles to knobs. If you have knobs that turn, put the baby proof covers on top of them.
Another good idea is to put locks at the top of doors that lead outside as an extra measure of precaution.
If you have an alarm system, set it to chime anytime a door is opened. That way you can hear if a door is opened when it shouldn’t be.
Set a list of rules for your children regarding pool use. Anything from no entering the pool area without an adult to no running or diving.
Rules should be easy to understand and enforce.
4. House Guests
Summer is a time for get togethers and if you have a pool, you’re going to get lots of visitors. Make sure you insist that guests or family always properly close any exits or gates that lead to the pool. Signage can be helpful here.
5. Water Alarms
There are several examples of water alarms, from something your child wears to something connected to the pool. The Safety Turtle Child Immersion Alarm Kit is an option that your kids can wear. You place the “turtle” on your child’s wrist and if he jumps into the pool submerging the turtle in water, the base alarm goes off to alert the parent.
The baby proofing suggestions on this list aren’t necessarily the kind where you choose one and move on. Any of these items can be used in tandem. There are no guarantees with accidents, but these ideas are some of the best ways to minimize the risk of drowning. The above lists ways to protect your kids from getting into a pool when you are not around. However, I cannot stress enough that NOTHING is a substitute for active, adult supervision. Get out there with your kids and have fun! Swimming is not meant to be stressful, so when the right provisions are in place, you can enjoy long summer days with your kids. Plus, when you are watching them, you can enforce the pool rules that were set.
Lastly, just because I’m a pediatrician and worry about your sweet babies, lather them (and yourself) up with sunscreen and reapply frequently. Some of my favorite sunscreens include Aveeno Baby, California Baby or Blue Lizard. Happy swimming!