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May 25th, 2016

Kiddie pools pose drowning hazards. Here’s how to keep kids safe

By Amy Albin

Big backyard swimming pools aren’t the only source of drownings. Those seemingly safe small, inflatable “kiddie” pools can be just as dangerous.

“When we think of pool risks, we think of the big pools, complete with deep-ends, diving boards, and swim parties,” said Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor of head and neck surgery and director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, writing on her blog. “But more than 10 percent of pool-related deaths in young children occur in what are best known as ‘kiddie pools.’ These include inflatables, plastic wading pools, and larger above-ground pools.”

Research bears this out. A 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics found that portable pools in residential settings pose a significant risk of drowning-related injury and death to children, especially those under age 5.

Shapiro noted that more than half of drownings occur when a child is either unsupervised or has had a lapse in supervision. A lapse can be caused by the supervising adult falling asleep, going in to the house to answer the telephone, doing chores or even just chatting with a friend.

But constant supervision alone is not the answer.

Whether the pool is large or small, experts say, the best way to prevent drownings is to use a combination of techniques that create layers of protection.

Shapiro offers these tips in this pool safety video:

  • Watch children vigilantly. Accidents can happen in a second.
  • Have a phone by the pool in case you need to call for help.
  • Install a gate at least 4 feet high around large pools. Make sure the gate is latched.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Drain kiddie pools when not in use.
  • Remove toys when the child is not in the kiddie pool; those bright or familiar objects can be an irresistible lure to small children with no concept of personal risk.
  • Remember that life preservers are a safety device –not a toy.

“There is no magic bullet to prevent these horrors. So stock your safety arsenal with layers of prevention so that summer fun doesn’t turn tragic,” said Shapiro.

Visit uclahealth.org/mattel for more information on children’s health.

— Amy Albin

Tags: Children’s Health, childrens health, Dr. Nina Shapiro, kiddie pools, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, pediatric otolaryngology, swimming pools, swimming safety, water safety

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