Pediatric critical care physician, Sree Chirumamilla MD, attending physician and specialist in and palliative care at Children’s and Women’s Physicians of Westchester (CWPW) in Valhalla, New York stresses that there are a number of vitally important measures that need to be taken to keep children safe in and around the water. “First and foremost, there is no substitute for proper supervision at all times. Supervising adults should refrain from alcohol,” states Dr. Chirumamilla.
Hazards abound at the shoreline, and in the backyard pool as well. “There is always a false sense of security with inflatable kiddie pools, floaties, water wings and noodles,” Dr. Chirumamilla states. Regardless of size and the depth of the water, much can go wrong for a child of any age. Many commercial inflatable flotation devices are inadequate to keep a child safe in the water. When in the water and learning to swim, children should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets for optimal safety. Toddlers and young children learning to swim should always be at an arm’s length of an adult in the water. All children should be encouraged to take swimming lessons.
“Parents can introduce infants to the water, but it should be done with extreme caution. In the water, infants should always remain in the arms of an experienced adult swimmer. Time in the water should be limited from 15 to 30 minutes to prevent overexposure to the sun and hypothermia from cold water,” Dr. Chirumamilla states. “Wherever children swim at a public venue, a lifeguard should always be on duty. Everyone should be mindful of the posted signs regarding diving, water conditions, beach condition, or any potential hazards. Even in rivers that appear shallow, the undertow can be very powerful,” she adds.
Even if your teenager is an experienced swimmer, everyone should always swim with a buddy. Children with medical conditions should be watched particularly closely and should wear a medical bracelet identifying their condition.
Aside from the hazards posed by water, Dr. Chirumamilla stresses that the sun poses a serious risk for children of all ages. “Make sure children are protected from UVA (long wave) and UVB (short wave) rays,” she cautions. A sunscreen with protection level of 15 or higher is recommended. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two to four hours regardless of whether the child has been in the water or whether it is sunny or cloudy. Don’t forget to apply to hands, feet and the neck. Sunglasses with UV protection should be worn to protect the eyes from harmful rays. “A lot of UV light is absorbed through the eyes,” Dr. Chirumamilla adds. Dr. Chirumamilla recommends limiting their sun exposure during peak intensity hours from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to reduce the chances of sunburn or overexposure to harmful rays.
Heat exhaustion from summer heat is also a concern for active children, Dr. Chirumamilla cautions, as is the more life threatening heat stroke. Good hydration with water or sugar-free, decaffeinated beverages is essential. “Children who are sweating profusely, feel faint or dizzy, complain of pain, muscle cramps, headache, weakness, excessive thirst or nausea may have heat exhaustion.”
Finally, all adults should learn CPR, including teenagers. Even school-age children show capacity to grasp the basic concepts of CPR. And all children old enough to understand should be taught to call 911 to report an emergency.
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About Children's & Women's Physicians of Westchester, LLP
Children's & Women's Physicians of Westchester is one of the largest medical practices in the nation comprised of dedicated doctors and health professionals committed to providing comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care to women, infants, children and adolescents. The medical practice is located throughout the greater New York Metropolitan area, extending from New York City, throughout the Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Orange Counties as well as in Southern Connecticut. For information on our medical specialties and office locations visit our website at www.cwpw.org.