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About 600 children drown in South Africa every year!

Swimming at the beach or enjoying poolside activities are great ways to create lasting memories with your loved ones, and despite the pandemic, many families are likely to gravitate towards water this summer.

Wherever you go, it’s really important to ensure that you are vigilant when your kids are playing near water.

According to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), about 600 children drown in South Africa each year, with toddlers (children under the age of 5) being the most susceptible when in proximity to water.

Mina Manoussakis, founder and director of Aqua Dolphin Swimming Club (ADSC), says it’s really important for parents to take preventative measures when enjoying water activities with their kids to avoid any accidents. “Never leave your child unattended, since they can drown in less than 6cm of water. If you have a pool at home, installing barriers to prevent children from accessing the swimming area unaccompanied is a practical investment.”

“When at the beach, don’t swim alone, even if you are a trained swimmer. Remember, although it’s the festive season, drinking and swimming isn’t sensible. When it comes to your family, the right investments, like a tow float or dry bag, are as necessary as sunblock in your beach bag. Also, try to only frequent beaches where lifeguards are present,” she notes.

Follow these water safety tips to keep your kids safe: 

  • Always keep an eye on your child when she’s near water, even if it’s only a water feature in a garden. It takes only two minutes for a child to drown.
  • Spa baths and Jacuzzis aren’t safe for children, because they can’t support themselves in the swirling water. Keep these covered and locked.
  • Never let your child swim alone, even if she’s wearing armbands or a flotation tube.
  • When swimming in the ocean, hold your child’s hand at all times and make sure your feet and hers can touch the ocean floor at all times.
  • Although much fun can be had, don’t let your child drift in the ocean on an inflatable Lilo or board, as the current can quickly drag her out to sea.
  • Teach your child never to dive into water, but to jump in feet first. If it’s an unfamiliar pool, it could be too shallow to dive into, which can result in serious injuries.
  • Make sure that swimming pools are properly fenced off or have a pool net over them.
  • Take note of water safety notices. Swim between water flags and in an area where there are lifeguards.
  • If you and your family go out on a boat, make sure everyone wears approved life jackets.
  • If you’re caught in a current in a lagoon, ocean or river, don’t try to swim against the current; swim across the current to gradually get out of it.
  • If there are any warning flags posted on the beach due to unusually high water levels, or if water conditions are hazardous, don’t let your children swim in that area.
  • Don’t swim near a river mouth and avoid going into the sea at dawn or dusk, as shark attacks are more likely to happen during these times.
  • Supervise your child at a public pool or beach, even if there are lifeguards on duty. They aren’t there to babysit your children.
  • Teach your children not to run near swimming pools; they could slip and get injured.
  • Always remove the cover completely from a pool before swimming. Partially covered pools are dangerous.

Phila Lutho Zita, an ADSC instructor has this advice if you see someone in the water who needs help:

  • Try to stay calm and assess the situation as quickly as possible.
  • Swiftly decide if the person is within reach or if you need to enter the water.
  • If you’re able to assist the person by staying out of the water, use any implement on hand, like a pool noodle, pole or rope.
  • The person in trouble should be able to grab onto the object, allowing you to pull them to safety.
  • Alternatively, if you need to enter the water (If there isn’t a lifeguard or appropriate rescue implement on hand) first ensure that the person you’re assisting is as calm as possible under the circumstances. If they’re panicked and flailing around when you reach them, they might hit you or cling to you in a manner that puts you both at risk of drowning – especially in the ocean.
  • Calmly talk to them and get them to float on their back. Secure your arm around their chest or under their arms and swim to safety.
  • Once they are safe, ensure that nothing is blocking their airway (throat) so that they can breathe normally and either cough or spit out all the water that has been swallowed.

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