Above Ground Pool Safety Tips

Author, Dr. Christina, with a patient. (Credit: PM Pediatrics)

COVID-19 could be putting the brakes on a lot of summer fun this year, but swimming doesn’t have to be one of them. There’s no evidence showing coronavirus can be transmitted from swimmer to swimmer by water (kids sputtering and coughing on each other in the pool is a different story), so parents need not put a ban on water fun. 

But with lots of families investing in above-ground backyard pools this summer, the potential for serious injury starts to rise as well. Parents need to practice a unique set of safety precautions to keep kids safe: 

  • Shallower doesn’t mean safer: just because your child can stand in an above ground pool doesn’t mean parents can turn their backs. A child can drown in as little as six inches of water if they become submerged.
  • No Jumping or Diving: above ground pools are shallow, no more than four feet deep, and not enough to prevent injuries to the feet, ankles, and legs (jumping) or head and neck (diving). Don’t push other kids in or jump on others in the pool. When accidents do happen, watch for numbness or vomiting, which can indicate neurological trauma and maybe a true emergency.
  • Ladder Safety: Most above ground pools require a ladder to get in and out, and they can get slippery and cause injury. Just like there’s no running around a pool, there’s no rushing up and down a ladder.
  • Personal Flotation Devices: Make sure you have an appropriately sized, Coast Guard approved PFD for your child. “Water Wings” and similar floats often give parents and caregivers a false sense of security, when in fact it is unlikely that these could actually save a life.
  • No food or gum while swimming: It goes without saying, but anything you have in your mouth while swimming (except your teeth and tongue) represents a choking hazard.

Additionally, there are a few myths that need to be “busted” every summer:

  • “Dry Drowning” is not real and kids who “swallow water” while swimming don’t need to be watched for days for signs of respiratory distress. Instead, parents should check for rapid breathing or an inability to speak in full sentences immediately after the event. If there are no respiratory symptoms or cough after about 4 hours following a water event, it’s unlikely that a breathing problem related to water will occur.
  • Waiting 45 minutes after eating before going back in the water is a total myth.
    Clear pool water means that it is safe. False. Microbes can still exist in clear pool water, which is why the water needs to be sampled and tested regularly to ensure that the chemicals are appropriately balanced.

In the end, pools are pools. Parents need to practice the same safety habits no matter where they are. 

The author Dr. Christina Johns is a working pediatrician and Sr. Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics, with more than 55 local offices nationwide. 

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