Now that the unofficial start to summer has started, pools and lakes will be filled with the sounds of children laughing, screaming and splashing. Unfortunately, as Nancy Naeve Brown reports, children drown without a sound in just a few seconds, that's why parents need to be diligent when lifeguards aren't on duty.
Amber Medill isn't taking any chances with her 6 year old daughter Luci when she is around water. That's why Luci wears a life vest even when she is playing on the shore of a windy Wall Lake.
"She always wears a life jacket and we make sure she is wearing it properly and make sure we keep extra eyes on her because drowning can happen really fast," Amber said.
Avera McKennan Certified Family Life Educator Betty Barto-Smith says Amber and Luci are doing everything right when it comes to water safety, especially at places like Wall Lake where there are no lifeguards on duty. She says parents often confuse things like water wings and toy inner tubes as safety devices.
"These are not safety devices at all. They are assists for children to make them a little more buoyant in the water but they are no way safe. These are flimsy plastic and can easily burst; the nozzles could pull out and deflate. The only safety device that is workable is personal floatation device like what Luci has," Barto-Smith said.
"We like to take extra precautions. We worry about drowning especially if we are out on the boat. We are afraid she will fall off and drown. On the beach when she is swimming the water can become deep really fast, "Amber said.
Barto-Smith says drowning should be a concern for parents since 1 in 5 of the people who die from drowning are children under the age of 14.
"First and foremost there is no substitute for supervision. Make sure your kids understand your expectations of behavior. It's not good enough to say you need to be careful or you need to behave. You need to give them specific information on how you want them to behave and how you want them to be careful," Barto-Smith said.
Parents also have to behave appropriately; that means someone always has to be in charge of watching the kids when they're at the lake, in the backyard pool and the hotel pool where lifeguards aren't there to watch them. That's why Avera McKennan hands out designated water watcher badges to remind the adult that they are on duty.
"Supervision is really the only safe way for children to play at the beach. They must be supervised all the time, "Barto-Smith said.
And this mom plans to keep her eyes on this little beach beauty all summer long.
You can pick up the water watcher badges at the Avera Medical Group McGreevy Pediatrics Clinic on 69th in Sioux Falls for free.