Water Park Safety for Toddlers
Many families look forward to visiting the water park in the summer. Nothing cools you down better on a stifling summer day than a dip in the pool or a run down a water slide. Obviously, this kind of environment poses a risk to toddlers and young children, but they can have fun too with some simple precautions.
We will look at three main risks when it comes to water parks: drowning, heat stress, and water-borne bacteria.
Drowning Precautions for Water Parks
The best drowning precaution is preparation for both you, as the parent, and your child, as they learn to respect water.
1) Children are ready for swimming lessons by about age 4. But even for children under the age of 4, swimming activities can acclimatize them with the rules surrounding water and pool use. Before going to a water park, your child should be able to float, propel themselves forward, blow bubbles underwater (kids need to know how to expel water instead of inhaling it), and rise to the surface after jumping off the diving board.
2) Plan your water park adventure before actually going there. Review the park’s website and read about the activities the park provides, including age and height and swimming skill limitations. When you arrive there, do a walk around of the park first to further evaluate whether a ride is safe or appropriate. Keep away from wave pools and places where there are lots of older kids. Young children can quickly become overwhelmed by too much activity and too much water. Still, don’t be afraid to expose your child to rides that may allow him or her to practice the swimming skills they have. “These might include rafting down steep inclines (requiring effort to get to the starting point but no actual swimming ability) or traveling high speeds down a watery slide and being dumped into a shallow pool of water (where expelling water is a valuable skill).” (Parentingsquad.com)
3) Plan for adequate supervision. This includes bringing another adult with you, reviewing the park’s lifeguard policy and making sure that there are sufficient lifeguards on duty. Remember that not every park employee is a lifeguard.
4) If your child is under 48 inches (2 feet), does not swim or is a weak swimmer, he or she should wear a Coast Guard-approved life vest (PFD, personal flotation device). Some parks provide their own PFD’s for users. It’s never a bad idea, though, to bring a personal flotation device that you have fitted and chosen for your child. Do NOT rely on water wings as a safety device. And remain within arm’s reach at all times.
Heat Stress Precautions at Water Parks
You would think that in an environment where there is water that hydrates and keeps you cool in the heat, that there wouldn’t be a risk of heat stress or other heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Sunburn is also a risk and studies have shown that childhood sunburns can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer later on in life. Not only that, but there is also a risk of hypothermia, as well. Let’s look at these.
1) “Water temperature below 85F (29C) can cause babies to lose heat quickly, putting them at risk for hypothermia … Shivering infants or those whose lips are turning blue should be removed from the water immediately, dried, and kept in a towel.” (MSN Health)
2) In fact, heat stress and dehydration can happen in an environment made up almost completely of water. Wear appropriate sun-protective clothing (hat, t-shirt) when out of the water. Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin at least 15 minutes prior to entering the water, and then re-apply frequently.
3) Plan for periodic cool down periods when you are out of the sun and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Water-borne Illnesses at Water Parks
The dangers of water-borne illnesses don’t just happen in water parks, but any public water area. “In June 1998, a dozen children contract E. coli bacteria at an Atlanta water park and one child died. The likely cause: a child with diarrhea.” (Parents.com) People think that just because a pool is chlorinated that there is little risk of contamination, but bacteria from feces can actually continue to live in the pool for a few days until the chlorine completely wipes it out.
1) If the water is cloudy, that is if you cannot see the central drain in the deep end, the water is not safe.
2) If the water stings your eyes, then the pool might be contaminated. The stinging sensation is caused by the reaction of the chlorine coming in contact with pool water contaminants.
3) Teach your child not to swallow the water.
4) Clean the water out of a child’s ears so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to grow and so water doesn’t get trapped in a child’s ear and cause “swimmer’s ear”.
5) Teach your child to shower thoroughly (with soap) before getting in the pool and after getting out.
6) Ideally, it is best to keep your child out of public pools until he or she is potty trained. If your child has diarrhea or other gastrointestinal illnesses, keep her out of the water for up to two weeks afterward. Change soiled swim-safe diapers quickly and in designated diaper-changing areas. Bacteria can be transferred on pool-area surfaces.
7) Be aware of fountains with warnings that they are not intended for play. The water for these fountains are not chlorinated and so can harbor and pass along water-borne illnesses.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Hidden Summer Dangers: Swimming Pool and Water Park Worries. Hudepohl, Dana. Parents. Web. May 24, 2012.
Water Safety. MSN Health. Web. May 24, 2012.
6 Simple Rules for Water Park Safety. Rains, Julie. ParentingSquad. Web. May 24, 2012.
Waterpark Safety Tips. International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Web. May 24, 2012.
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