This post is also available in: Svenska
Sometimes I talk to my colleagues about what we, as child health care workers, are most afraid of. In first or second place, for the vast majority of us, is drowning (the second, is children choking to the point of breathlessness). Every now and then we are presented with a child who has experienced a drowning incident.
In the best scenario, the child is alive and breathing. A terrified parent found the child within half a minute and may have performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In other scenarios, when a child has been underwater for more than 2-3 minutes, the child arrives in an ambulance with ongoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation .
We continue CPR on the two-year-old, or five-year-old, or 11-year-old. And we continue. And continue. Sometimes their heart and lungs get back on track. But it doesn’t end there – there are long hopitalisation time and a very difficult future for the child’s brain function. Some (especially after drowning in really cold water) can recover almost completely, others might end up with incurable and very, very severe brain damage.
Sometimes the child dies in the emergency room.
Can you understand why we are absolutely terrified of water?
It only takes a little bit of water
Children can drown by falling and putting their nose and mouth in a deeper puddle. Children can definitely drown in their paddling pool. Therefore, small children should always have an adult beside them while by the water. The adult must not take their eyes off their child when bathing or splashing in water. Smartphone ban!
Older children, aged 4-5, can be allowed to splash in shallow water without complete supervision and only after letting them try to put their face in water and come out again.
Children drown silently!
When children fall into water, they won’t scream. They won’t wave their arms in most cases. Instead they will breathe in the water and start sinking, or floating with their heads down. Therefore, children must be supervised at all times when near water! Every second! By an adult who can swim.
Children who don’t understand that it is dangerous to fall into the water, must be held by their hands. All of the time.
Wear a life jacket!
When a child plays by the water where there isn’t a bottom bed, on cliffs, steeper beaches or piers, or on boats, always wear a life jacket! It should be a life jacket with a collar (because it turns so the child lies with his head up automatically). Tighten the crotch strap. If not, the life jacket will be pushed up over the child’s head and not work as it should. Feel free to let the child test bath with the life jacket on so you both know what it feels like to be with it in the water. Always keep an eye on children even if they’re not swimming and even if they are wearing a life jacket.
A person responsible for guarding!
One situation that I personally know that leads to several drowning accidents, is when there are several adults at the edge of the pool / shoreline and everyone thought that someone else was probably guarding the child. It is understandable but important to avoid. Agree on who’s playing the lifeguard. Change, and make it clear. “Can you take over as lifeguard now so I go and read a book / take a swim / eat an ice cream / read my favorite blog, barnakuten.nu”.
Teach your child to swim!
This is quite obvious. Teach your child to swim! I couldn’t have been able to teach Isaac to swim by myself, even if I’m good at swimming. For us, swimming school during the year has been a fantastic (and expensive) investment. I think, it is shameful that swimming school must be paid for by the child’s parents. I would like all children from the age of four to have community-funded swimming schools until they are proficient swimmers.
That is not the case at all today. The fantastic swimming school we have attended (with a warm pool, small group classes, parents in the water and skilled instructors) costs 210 SEK (~20USD) per hour. The age of four or five is usually a good age to start “regular swimming school”. Then there is baby swimming for younger children, where you work a lot with building water confidence and self-rescue, but it is very expensive to start from birth. But if you like it, have the time and means, do it!
If you can’t afford a swimming school
Most municipalities have cheaper swimming schools. In some, it may be free? If you cannot afford swimming school, I would recommend you apply for grants from funds and foundations for “child care and education”. Church officers tend to be helpful with such things, otherwise you can google alternatives. Majblomman is an example of a foundation that should be able to give grants, I think.
Perhaps there are several of you who can come together as a group to apply for money for a free swimming school. Maybe a community swimming center can sponsor pool time; have some swimming instructor work for non-profit? Perhaps there are associations interested in helping. Red Cross, Church of Sweden, Peerless Parents?
In conclusion: Water. Is. Deadly! Watch every child, who can’t swim, every second! Teach the child to swim as soon as possible.