Before you take your kids to cool off in a pool, teach them the basics of safe swimming, and know what to do if they get in trouble. Some ground rules from Susan Tully, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician in Los Angeles:
- Leave a small child alone in a public or a private pool (even if there's a lifeguard nearby). Wading pools aren't any safer: A child can drown in just a few inches of water.
- Give a child under 4 swimming lessons or teach him how to dog paddle. That'll only give you (and him) a false sense of security.
- Let your child horse around in the pool. Teach him not to run near it, jump in without first checking what's below, push another person in, or hold another child's head under water.
- Hesitate to perform CPR in an emergency if you're not trained to do it. Studies show that even poorly performed CPR can save a life.
- Keep a close eye on your child -- drowning can occur in less than three minutes. If you have to leave the pool area at any time, be sure to bring your child along.
- Teach an older child how to swim, and tell him to make sure an adult is always watching before he goes in the water. Also, teach him to use the buddy system and to never swim alone.
- Remind your child that it's safer to walk around a pool and use the pool's ladder or stairs to go in. Teach him never to dive into any body of water (including ponds and lakes) unless he's checked with you to make sure it's deep enough.
- Take a CPR class (contact your local American Red Cross chapter) to better prepare yourself. Keep a cordless phone and emergency numbers poolside, as well as a shepherd's hook and rescue tube.