Sunday, May 6, 2012

Think safety when kids come near water

Children will find water fun, but adults need to be on their
guard to avoid drownings.
Kids love water, and incorporating it into a hike is a great way to turn them on to the pastime. Still, water is very dangerous, so you need to make sure children play it safe.

Avoid trails that wind too close to swift-running rivers, and unless the child is a teenager avoid stream crossings. Before being allowed to go in water, children should know how to swim. Enrolling them in a swimming course is a good idea. They also should know what to do if drowning, and older children should know how to rescue others.

If children wade into streams or lakes, make sure the water is clean. Also carry sandals or an extra pair of sneakers as hidden dangers, like sharp rocks and sticks, can be stuck in the bottom of bodies of water and cut bare feet. Don’t dive into water where rocks clearly line the bottom or stick above the surface. A head easily could hit the rock, leading to a drowning.

To rescue a drowning child, first you must not panic. More than ever, you need a clear head. All too often, a drowning person pulls down their rescuer or a strong current also grabs hold, causing both to die. Next, you’ll need to quickly assess the situation to determine how the child will be saved.

The best of all worlds is when the child is nearby and you can reach out and grab an arm or leg to pull him in. When reaching out, lay down at the water’s edge and spread your legs to give yourself more stability.

If the child is out of reach, you might be able to extend your arm via a strong branch or trekking pole. Lay down at the water’s edge as previously described and shout to the child to grab the object you’re holding out. When the child has a secure grip, pull him in.

Should the child still be out of reach, you may have to get into the water. Be sure that there’s something secure for you to hold onto so you don’t get pulled under. Extend a leg or arm and shout to the child to grab on. When the child securely latches on, pull them toward you. You may then need to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.