With weather temperatures rising and the school holidays beginning this week, Water Babies, Ireland’s leading baby and toddler swim school, is advising parents to watch their children very carefully around water including paddling pools, swimming pools and by the seaside, as the mix of sunshine, water and children can be a lethal combination.
Carol McNally from Water Babies is urging parents to be extra vigilant during the heatwave : “The danger to children is much greater during hot weather with the added exposure to swimming pools, padding pools, canals, rivers and the sea. We all love the warm weather, chilling out and letting our little ones splash around. However parents tend to relax and gain a false sense of security for children during the holidays, when in fact they should be more attentive than ever.”
Water Babies, Ireland’s leading baby and toddler swim school, which conducts an annual Summer Water Safety Campaign, in partnership with Irish Water Safety and Glohealth, recently carried out research into Irish parents swimming skills and capabilities, and the results are astounding.
Out of over 1,000 parents surveyed 59% said they were not confident swimmers with 4% being afraid of water and 5% never having learnt how to swim. Shockingly 38% of the people surveyed (390 parents) said they wouldn’t feel confident jumping into a swimming pool or swimming out to sea to save a child which demonstrates how important it is to keep an eye on children during days at the beach or swimming pool. And it is vital that children learn to swim at an early age and that they are taught how to stay safe around swimming pools, paddling pools and open water.
Water Babies research also showed that 11% of parents were unable to swim a length of a pool or tread water and cited a number of reasons for their lack of swimming skills – 20% didn’t have a local swimming pool when they were growing up, 34% said swimming lessons were not available in their school and worryingly 23% said their parents didn’t think it was an important life skill. And 88% of the parents who can’t swim regret not being able to swim now.
Thankfully attitudes to swimming are changing. When asked to prioritise why it was important for children to learn to swim, safety reasons was cited as most important with 67% of today’s generation of parents think that swimming should be learnt for safety reasons so that their children have the ability to save themselves should they ever fall into water. Swimming as an important life skill was regarded as the second most important motivation with 39% of respondents agreeing with this. Finally, 39% swim for health reasons (the third motivator for swimming) because it’s a great form of exercise.
While Water Babies lessons are fun for both parent and little ones, the course also has an extremely serious added benefit. Carol McNally from Water Babies explains “A drowning incident can happen silently and instantly, in as little as one inch of water and in less time than it takes to answer the telephone or tend to another child. Sadly, a primary factor in cases of fatal drowning is down to the initial shock, when a toddler or child falls into the water. Very young children react instantly and adversely to sudden and unexpected submersion, and are temporarily paralysed with fear,’
“We passionately believe that by introducing babies to water as early as possible, they’ll be less likely to experience fear if they do fall in. With progressive training, babies can be taught life-saving skills very early on such as turning onto their backs or, following a sudden submersion, swimming to the nearest solid object.”
“In the last few years over ten Water Babies pupils have saved their own lives, five of whom were just two years old at the time. It’s fantastic what vital skills children can learn, and it’s so important that they do so as soon as possible.”
Water Babies primary goal is to teach babies vital lifesaving skills, such as swimming and holding on to the nearest solid object or turning onto their backs. Water Babies believe that a baby or toddler who is confident in the water and has been taught these simple survival skills stands a far better chance of coping with an unexpected immersion; thus avoiding the heart-wrenching tragedy of losing a child to drowning.
Water Babies is working closely with Irish Water Safety, the statutory body established to promote water safety in Ireland, to educate parents and change behaviour to prevent drowning and water related accidents and has created a guide which is available from https://www.waterbabies.ie/news/article/100 for parents. By following these guidelines parents and carers can minimize the chances of a tragic incident befalling their child this summer and all through the year:
WATER BABIES SUMMER WATER SAFETY TIPS
Actively supervise young children around water
- Parents must keep an eye on their children at all times – they can be easily distracted chatting to other parents, reading a newspaper or talking on the phone.
- Supervising adults should be in arms reach of children under five so that if a child slips underwater, they can be pulled to safety immediately
- The adult watching must be able to swim and not afraid to jump in the water.
- If leaving, even momentarily, take your child or designate a known adult to supervise – never leave an older sibling in charge around water.
Be safety conscious at the poolside
- Make sure there is a qualified lifeguard in attendance before you or your children enter a public swimming pool.
- Check where the rescue equipment and lifeguards are.
- Do not swim in a swimming pool which has cloudy pool water or where you can’t see the pool bottom
- Save the local emergency numbers on your mobile phone.
Flotation devices are not life preservers
- Toys and inflatables are often unstable and therefore a hazard.
Do not swim at beaches with large waves, a powerful undercurrent or no lifeguards
- Find out where the lifeguards are and learn water symbols and flags indicating current beach conditions. Please follow their advice, available at Irish Water Safety’s website, www.iws.ie
- Drinking can impair your supervision and swimming skills – especially when combined with the mid-day heat.
Learn BLS (Basic Life Support)
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may provide the seconds needed to prevent death or brain damage.
Teach your children these water safety rules:
- Always swim with others, never alone
- Do not push or jump onto others or participate in any dangerous behaviour in a swimming pool – ie horseplay, wrestling, running, jumping and dive bombing – it might result in injury.
- Do not dive into water. Diving into insufficient water depths can cause face, head and spinal injuries and even death
- Know what to do in an emergency and where to get help. Call 999 or 112.
- Make sure everybody wears a lifejacket when boating or fishing that is age and size specific and has a correctly fitting crotch strap.
Water Babies and Irish Water Safety recommend that children learn to swim from as early as possible. Water Babies operate classes in Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Louth, Galway, Sligo, Mayo, Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Carlow, Kilkenny, Cork and Kerry..