SAN ANTONIO – With temperatures starting their summer spike, a parent's job as their child's protector becomes ever more important.
At the top of a parents' safety concern list is the one thing most kids look forward to during their carefree days of summer vacation: playing in the water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 10 people a day die from unintentional drowning. Of those deaths, two are children 14 years old or younger. In fact, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S.
Dr. Mark Muir, trauma medical director at University Hospital and assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio, offers one directive to parents.
"The single most important thing I can tell parents this summer is if your kids are near water, not just in the water, but around water, whether it's a pool, lake or river, is that an adult has to be keeping an eye on that child at all times," Muir said.
And it's not just a deep water concern.
Popular wading pools and fountains in public parks are not without risk, Muir said.
Infants and toddlers can go face down in shallow water as low as one to two inches and drown in a matter of seconds. Muir said that's the major reason drowning is documented as the No. 1 cause of death in children ages 1 to 4.
Muir said water tragedies can be prevented by using the proper gear.
Of particular concern are popular inflatable floaties and water wings, which while fun, are not life jackets that will keep your child's head above water when a water emergency occurs. And even if your child is wearing a life jacket, experts want parents to remember the "touchdown" exercise to make sure it will work like it should.
"The best way to tell if a life jacket fits, particularly in a child is to have them make a touchdown sign. If they can do that with both hands straight in the air, and the life jacket comes up to their ears or chin, the life jacket is too large for that child," Muir said.
The jacket should not ride up, and chances are it won't if your life jacket has a strap that clips between the child's legs as well as across the chest.
Muir said a good water safety plan also includes CPR training, which are at a number of locations and online through the American Red Cross. The classes are not free, and seating is limited, so if you want to be trained this summer, you should reserve your spot now.