"I saved a drowning toddler - here are the things I need all parents to remember"
As trips to the beach or the pool are a regular occurrence for families in the summer, children can easily become drowning victims.
Water Safety Ireland states thirty children aged fourteen and under were victims of drownings in the span of ten years.
It's therefore so important for supervisors and swimmers alike to be aware of how quickly a family fun day can take a dangerous turn.
US-based life coach Krista-Lynn Landolfi almost had first-hand experience with this when a day at the pool turned into a rescue mission.
Krista-Lynn witnessed a 22-month-old boy fall into a hot tub and get trapped under his tricycle whilst playing with his brothers. Though the three boys had been wearing life jackets, she had kept an eye on them anyway as they zoomed around since nobody else appeared to be watching them.
"The boy was fully submerged under water, trapped between the hot tub seat and his large plastic tricycle, which was too heavy for him to push off," she wrote in Today's Parent.
"All you could see was one tiny foot flailing in the air, a couple of inches above the water, as he fought to save his own life... if you'd missed him flip into the water, it would have just looked like a floating toy."
She raced to save the boy and jumped into the water fully clothed before getting him out. As he was coughing, she tipped him over her knee and patted his back as he spits up water.
After returning the child to his grandfather, Krista-Lynn was thanked by his 6-year-old brother who had tried to help him but couldn't.
Reflecting on the traumatic afternoon, she has some pointers for parents when it comes to children's water safety.
1. A village mentality can be more of a hazard than a help
Nobody apart from Krista-Lynn noticed the little boy's fall into the water despite the swarms of people – including the boy's mother – nearby. A village mentality that allows people to think everyone's watching everyone else can actually mean nobody is effectively being watched, or that someone is bound to fall through the cracks.
2. The briefest of distractions can lead to tragedy
Water can obstruct a child's airway so quickly that it can drown in a matter of seconds. This could be the time you root through your bag for suncream, turn to talk to a partner or family member or send a text on your phone.
3. Other children are not the best supervisors
Like the 6-year-old who tried to save his toddler brother before Krista-Lynn got to him, children can't be expected to keep as close an eye on another child as an adult. Children are more likely to get distracted at first and are less mentally and physically equipped to help when accidents do happen. In thinking your older children will look after their younger siblings without your watchful eye, you could actually be putting all of the kids in danger.
4. Put emergency plans in place
Swimming lessons from a young age give everyone a fighting chance in the water, but kids also need educating on the dangers water presents both to make them more vigilant in their own water activity and in recognising when someone else is in trouble. As kids can have a hard time formulating sentences when scared or panicked, deciding on a designated word like "help" or "danger" for them to shout while pointing at those in danger will help them manage to get the message across.
5. Life jackets and other floating devices can give a false sense of security
Armbands, lilos, and other inflatables should not be considered safety devices that will protect your child from drowning. They could burst, deflate, and your child could take them off – and in the case of rings or lilos, your child could fall off them and end up trapped underneath them in the water. Life jackets offer the best protection – but your child still requires supervision whilst wearing one.
6. Regardless of depth, no body of water is 100% safe
Because of how large a child's head is in comparison to their body – particularly when it comes to toddlers and babies – its weight is heavy. This means it's hard for kids to lift their heads up out of the water quickly when it's submerged. So regardless of how shallow a pool is, if a child's mouth and nose are under the water, their airways are blocked and they can drown.
7. "Help" and wild thrashing isn't guaranteed
Krista-Lynn pointed out that the boy she saved wasn't creating enough of a scene for those who missed his fall to notice. This is apparently common in cases of drownings, as Water Safety Ireland states that drownings often happen "quickly and silently." Be aware of kids who seem to be bobbing up and down with widened eyes.
8. Designate water watchers
It's important for there to always be a 100% dedicated supervisor to swimming children at all times. No phones, no head-turning conversations, no distractions of any kind. If you need to take a break or leave your post for whatever reason, make sure someone else is there to take your place. This airline safety tip works well when it comes to supervising kids in the water.
9. Keep wheels at bay
The boy Krista-Lynn saved from drowning fell into the water after zooming around the pool with his brothers. It's so easy for kids on tricycles, peddle cars, scooters, skateboards, roller skates, and so on to swerve or miss a corner and go flying into the pool. Worse still, such wheeled devices can weigh the child down and trap them underwater, as was the case with the toddler from Krista-Lynn's story.
10. Know when to not keep your nose out
If Krista-Lynn hadn't intervened, that toddler would have drowned. It's easy for parents or guardians to get distracted for a brief moment, and in that moment, anything can happen. This is where the village mentality should kick in, and you should act as fast as you would hope someone else would if your child was the one in danger.
"Had I waited a second longer, anticipating the boy's parents or someone closer would have rescued him, or done nothing fearing I'd look overly dramatic for running to his aid, the toddler I saved very likely would have died by drowning," Krista-Lynn says.