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Young Kids at Risk in Home Pools

< Jun. 22, 2011 > -- With summer and swim season officially under way, a new study reminds parents to be vigilant when young children are in and around pools.

Photo of young girl standing in inflatable pool

This is especially true for above-ground, or portable, swimming pools, which pose just as much risk for drowning as in-ground pools.

"About every five days a child drowns in a portable pool in the U.S.," says the study's lead researcher Gary A. Smith, M.D., at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Affordable fun

Portable pools are increasingly popular because they are much less expensive than in-ground pools - several thousand dollars vs. tens of thousands of dollars - and easy to assemble.

But because of their affordability and simplicity, parents may not see them as dangerous as in-ground pools, according to the study, which was published in the online version of the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Smith and colleagues used data on drowning deaths collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2001 and 2009. During that period, 209 children younger than 12 died and 35 cases were near-drownings.

At-home tragedy

About 75 percent of the deaths occurred in the child's own yard, and 40 percent were in a shallow wading pool.

More than 40 percent happened while the child was being supervised, 39 percent happened with no adult on hand, and 18 percent occurred with a lapse of supervision.

Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA, says the study confirms the dangers posed by above-ground home pools. "Safe Kids has been concerned about the increasing use of backyard pools that are too small for consumers to consider investing in fencing but too large to make them easy to empty and secure safely after each use."

Safety measures needed

Although safety measures such as alarms and fencing are available for in-ground pools, this isn't true for portable pools. Fencing, for instance, can cost more than the pool itself. The researchers call for industry development of affordable fencing and reliable pool alarms and covers for portable pools.

"Close supervision of young children around water is really important, but supervision alone isn't enough," Dr. Smith says. "Children can drown in very small amounts of water. Very young children can drown in a five-gallon bucket with water in the bottom. It only takes a couple of inches and a few minutes."

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Home-Pool Safety

If you have a pool at home, whether it's in-ground or above-ground, follow these tips to keep your family safe:

  • If possible, enclose your pool with a fence, wall, or other barrier at least 4 feet tall. Install self-latching gates that open outward.

  • Keep a close eye on children who are in or near the water. Don't socialize, read, or sleep if you are the adult responsible for watching them.

  • If the portable pool has a ladder for access, remove and safely store the ladder when no one is using the pool.

  • Do not assume your child can swim. Many youngsters forget how to swim when panicked.

  • Keep a portable phone in the pool area and program emergency contacts on its speed dial.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Academy of Pediatrics – Drowning

CDC – Drownings: The Reality

Safe Kids USA – Drowning Prevention