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Swim Smarter

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Drownings are the leading cause of accidental death for kids ages 1 to 4. Stay vigilant around water with these tips from Garry Gardner, M.D., chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.

Stay close at hand. “Being within arm's reach at all times—called ‘touch supervision’—means you'll be able to reach out and grab your child the second she needs you,” emphasizes Dr. Gardner.

Don't depend on floaties. Water wings, inner tubes, and tiny blow-up boats are fun, but they aren't approved flotation devices. If you do use them in the water, you still need to be right by your child's side. Remove them and any other water toys when you are not in the pool so that your child is not tempted to go in after them.

Learn a lesson. The AAP strongly recommends swim instruction for children ages 4 and up, but evidence has shown that kids between the ages of 1 and 4 may benefit from lessons, too.

Put up a fence. A four-sided, four-foot or higher barrier that separates the house from the pool is the safest enclosure. The wall or fence should have a self-closing, self-latching gate that swings outward, away from the pool (it's harder for little kids to open these types of gates). Latches that are out of a child's reach are best of all.

Be alarmed. Consider a pool or gate alarm, as well as a rigid pool cover, for an extra layer of protection.

Get your sea legs. If you're visiting a lake or the beach, swim only when a lifeguard is on duty, be aware of undertow warnings, find out how deep the water is before jumping off a dock, and insist all family members wear a life preserver on a boat.

Always get in the water with little dippers!

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