Lifewatch: Young children and swimming

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Experts say the earlier your child learns how to swim the better, because pools can be extremely dangerous for young children.

At just 2 years old, Preston Crowder had a close call at his home swimming pool.  He got too close to the edge and tumbled into the pool head first.

Before his mother could even react, she watched her son turn around and swim towards the pools edge and pull himself out.

That was a skill he learned during swim lessons.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warned against children under the age of four taking swim lessons for years.

"The thinking there is that kids don't have the gross motor skills until they're four years old, and if they're participating in swim lessons that might make parents less vigilant and there by indirectly increase the risk of drowning," said pediatrician Dr. Early Denison.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that swim lessons don't cause more drowning.  In fact, the study says swim lessons can provide some layer of protection.

Now, the academy is changing its stance, but pediatricians warn there must still be a more comprehensive water safety plan.

"You still need to think about pool fences," said Dr. Denison.  "You still need to think about CPR training for parents and caregivers and you need to think about parent vigilance."

"You absolutely want your child to learn to fall in the water, turn around and get back to the side," said swim instructor Jan Emler.

It is absolutely crucial to supervise children in the pool.  The lack of direct adult supervision is the main factor in 70% of toddler drowning deaths.