Health Watch -- Safe Pools

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

You may be the most effective piece of swimming pool safety equipment you have.

As summer draws near, families spend more time in lakes and backyard swimming pools. As fun as swimming can be for children, it also holds the potential for danger. Children under the age of four are most at risk for accidental drowning.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say the most important thing you can do to keep your children safe in the water is supervise them. Most drownings happen because children aren't adequately supervised. Accidents often occur at events where groups gather near a body of water, such as at a company picnic or family reunion. Children get together to play in the lake or pool, while adults are busy catching up with each other and may not notice what's happening in the water.

If you're involved with an event near water, or even if your family is just enjoying the backyard pool, keep a constant eye on your children so you can react instantly if something happens. At a group event, designate adults to supervise pool activities.

You can also help prevent accidental drownings by keeping your pool fenced with a lockable gate that will make sure children can't get in without your help. Enroll children in swimming lessons, but don't let swimming ability give you false confidence. You still must supervise. Establish and enforce pool rules against horseplay, running or other behavior that could lead to an accident.