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Marianjoy's Keen on Kids: Summer Pool and Water Safety

The start of summer marks the end of the school year and the opportunity for children to get outside. The outdoors are a great way to keep kids active but steps need to be taken to make sure your kids remain safe, especially when going to the beach, playing at the pool, or simply just out in the sun.

Though swimming is a popular and fun summertime activity, the water can be dangerous, especially for small children or those unable to swim. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that drowning is the leading cause of deaths among young children aged 1 to 4. “Precautions should always be taken when children are around a pool or any body of water,” notes Dr. Mary Keen, Medical Director of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital’s Pediatrics Program. “One way to prevent drowning is to fence off the pool area so children cannot get near the water. Consider using pool alarms or safety covers for your pool or spa. When you do take your child swimming, they should always be in your sight. Children who are preschool age or younger require ‘touch supervision’ which means that a child in the water should never be more than an arm’s length away from the parent. Formal swimming lessons can help protect children from drowning and help to reduce drowning risk but they should still be constantly supervised.” Additional precautions include having a cell phone handy to call for help in an emergency and learning CPR to help save a drowning victim until help can arrive.

Inflatable pools, plastic pools, or other small home water play attractions such as slides present other risks in addition to drowning. “These items are usually filled with tap water and don’t require chlorine or have the proper filtering systems. This can lead to the spread of recreation water illnesses or RWIs, which occur through contact with the water or swallowing it,” explains Dr. Keen. “In order to reduce your child’s risk of an RWI, empty the pool after each use, clean it and allow it to dry by leaving it in the sun for at least four hours before using it again. Larger pools that cannot be emptied daily should have filters and appropriate disinfecting systems that meet the same codes as full-sized swimming pools. Make sure that children who are ill do not use the pool and remind children to avoid getting pool water into their mouths.”

Sun Exposure

“The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for sun exposure,” notes Keen. “I recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, that offers both UVA and UVB protection and is waterproof. It should be reapplied every two hours in the sun, and immediately after swimming or participating in activities where the child may be sweating a lot.”

While in direct exposure to the sun and when appropriate, it’s recommended that a child wear loose-fitting long sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric which offer the best protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Darker colors reflect the rays better than lighter colors. At the least, the child should wear a t-shirt or beach cover-up along with a wide brim hat to shade the child’s face, head, ears, and neck. Sunglasses should be used to protect the child’s eyes. Even with these precautions, it is important to apply sunscreen for added protection.

Keen concludes, “By taking a few precautions we can help avoid any unnecessary risks, and have a safe and fun summer.”

For more information on Marianjoy’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Program or to learn about classes being offered for children with special needs, visit

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