When I was 8 or 9 years old, I watched my younger sister, not yet 4 years old, jump off the diving board wearing her “bubble” (an inflated football shaped flotation device belted around her waist). The bubble floated to the surface; she did not. My young self swam to help her, and we both struggled. Fortunately, our father was watching. In a flash, he was in the deep end of the pool, helping us both to safety. We were lucky.
Several years ago, moments after fishing acorns out of my 9-month-old nephew’s mouth, I sprang into action, while still holding my nephew, to scoop my then 2-year-old niece out of the shallow end of the pool. Despite being told to stay on the steps, she ventured further and within moments was underwater. Another adult was supposed to be watching them both.
Swimming with my own kids at a local fitness center pool, with lifeguards and multiple other adults around, I saw yet another child slip underwater, the child’s caregiver facing another direction. I helped that child, too.
Drowning happens quickly and at unexpected times when supervision, for whatever reason, lapses. It only takes a moment. As parents, we must be vigilant, alert, responsible. As pediatricians, it is our duty to counsel parents about water safety, to practice what we preach and to lead by example. Active supervision in and around water is required to prevent drownings and is why I became a #WaterWatchdog. A #WaterWatchdog agrees to maintain constant visual contact with the children in your group, not to drink alcohol, talk on the phone, socialize or read while watching children, to keep a phone near the water for emergency purposes only, and to remain by the water until relieved by a new #WaterWatchdog.
I encourage everyone, my colleagues, friends, family members, and patients/parents to become a #WaterWatchdog. Pledge to actively supervise children in and around the water, and prevent drowning, here: https://abbeyshope.org/water-watchdog/. Together we can make a difference, and keep kids safe. Take the pledge, share and promote safety, actively watch kids and prevent drowning. #PutKids1st, always.
Christina Dewey, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at All About Children Pediatrics, in Eden Prairie, MN, practicing in the Twin Cities Metro area since 1999. Learn more about Dr. Dewey at allaboutchildren.net & follow her on Twitter @PedsMamaDoc.