With the festive season upon us, more families gather at the beach or the pool and the risk of child drownings grows, warns Childsafe South Africa.
The injury-prevention unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital says drowning is the second leading cause of death among children in South Africa.
“Drowning is a fast and silent killer.
A child can lose consciousness after 90 to 120 seconds,” says executive director, Yolande Baker.
A child can drown in as little as 4cm of water – drownings can happen not only in swimming pools but also in buckets of water and toilets.
Ms Baker says there are several precautions one can take to prevent drowning:
● Teach children, whatever their age, to always respect water.
● Teach children at an early age how to swim.
● Children should always wear a life jacket when in water, especially those with special needs.
● Children with special needs are mostly likely not able to swim independently, so they should always have someone with them in the water.
● Actively supervise your children when near water.
● Never leave a small child alone in a bath.
● Always support babies in the bath to avoid them slipping under the water.
● Keep the toilet doors closed and the toilet lid down when you have children at home.
● The law requires that pools should be fenced off from the road or a neighbour’s property.
● Restrict access to pools by fencing your pool with a self-closing latch.
● Cover your swimming pool with a safety net.
● Discourage riding tricycles or bicycles near pools.
● Discourage running and playing games near water.
● Do not let your children swim when there is a warning sign or when there are strong currents.
If your child starts to struggle in water, immediately call a lifeguard or 112 from your cellphone for help.
For more information on preventing drowning, call Childsafe at 021 685 5208 or visit www.childsafe.org.za