Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm it is important to encourage parents to pay more attention to their kids while at the pool.
Accidents in and around water are the second leading cause of injury and death for kids under the age of 14. Studies show that parents tend to supervise their children when they are swimming or participating in a recreational water activity, but 88 percent of drowning occurs with an adult in the area.
That is, "9 out of 10 times," Dr. Carmona explains, "generally from somebody on the phone or distracted for a moment, talking to a friend, running out to the garage to get something. But in that fraction of a small time, a child can be put in harm's way and drown or suffer a near-drowning event."
There are several reasons why parents become sometimes overconfident about their children's swimming ability, Dr. Carmona says. "Sometimes, they have seen them swim across the pool and think, 'I don't have to worry.' Sometimes, they feel, 'I will only do this a second or two,' answer the phone or go someplace, but it only takes a small amount of time."
The American Academy Of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 4 really don't have swimming lessons. But Dr. Carmona says you can start swimming lessons when your child is a baby.
He says, "I think if you have the appropriate supervision. At that point it's not really swimming lessons, but getting used to the water, accustomed to the water. I think at 4 years old, 5 years old, 6 years old, children are better able to swim. But getting accustomed to the water and have the whole family understand the dynamics of water safety is important."
And yet, parents should not be overconfident, just because their kids have swimming lessons.
He says, "My children were competitive swimmers at an early age, but were supervised 100 percent. Should have fencing, self-closing gates. The gates need to touch the ground. The spacing between the bars has to be such that children can't slip through them, because a pool is so attractive for any child."
The fence should be around a Jacuzzi and even a baby pool should be deflated or supervised, Dr. Carmona says, "because if your toddler gets out and gets in that inch or two of water that can prevent a lethal threat potentially."
Besides good supervision, Dr. Carmona notes giving your kids the proper gear is also important on open water or closed water space. He says, "Even if you think you can swim, there are accidents that can occur where you need to have a flotation device on. Whenever you're out on the water in a boat, make sure you have them on."