How to Stop Summer Swimming Sessions from Turning Deadly

Family Matters on 07.10.12

Image: elias_daniel/Creative Commons

There is nothing my kids like better than to swim on a hot summer afternoon, and so this year --despite the known dangers of children drowning in kiddie pools -- I gave in and bought one. As I set it up on our deck, I vowed to always be close at hand as they swam and to empty it after each use. After all, there are certain summer safety basics to keep your family from harm, and I wanted to be sure and follow them all.

But the crazy thing about drowning is that it happens so fast--when your back is turned for just a moment, your cell phone is ringing, or your other child is calling you. And that's how I came to find my son drowning in our kiddie pool last week.

After bringing the kids in from their little swim, I walked out to the deck to keep my promise and empty the pool. I first started by putting away the toys and rolling up the hose while I heard my two year old coming up behind me. As I continued to work, I could hear him throwing some of the remaining toys into the pool. My back was turned to him for a moment as I tended to the hose -- and then I heard the sound of rushing water. I assumed he was pushing on the side of the pool, but when I turned, I found him face-up completely under the water.

I can tell you now, I will never forget the look of fear on his face--it will haunt me in my dreams for many years to come. Luckily I was close enough to quickly scoop him up and he was only underwater for a few seconds, not minutes. But as I held him in my arms and hugged him as he cried, I began to cry too. I cried because I was grateful he didn't drown. But mostly I cried for the moms and dads who have experienced the excruciating pain of loosing a child to drowning.

The US sees about 390 pool or spa-related deaths a year for children younger than 15, and I hope neither you nor I have to be one of those victims. Please let my son's near-drowning experience serve as a wake-up call, and use these tips from PoolSafely.gov to have a safe summer with your children.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
  • Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors

Top Articles on Pool Safety:
Small Kiddie Pools Pose Big Drowning Risk to Kids

7 Summer Safety Basics to Keep Your Family from Harm 
9-Year-Old Hero Saves His Sister from Drowning