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New Guidelines Suggest Children Learn To Swim As Early As Age One To Decrease Drowning Risk

UPDATED ON 5/29/19

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In South Florida, swim season is year round. Unfortunately, for too many children, a good time can turn tragic.  Drowning is a leading cause of death for children ages one to four.

That is why The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends swimming for children as early as one-year-old.  That's a younger age than previous guidelines.

"We're always watching them, but what happens if I turn around one minute? It could be really dangerous," says mother Nicole Guerrero.

She says she wanted to start her children early.

"If my son has the skills or my daughter has the skills, I am not worried anymore," she explains.

Her daughter began lessons at age two, and she put her son in swim survival classes at six months old.

"It's so great to know that at six months my son was just able to turn over, float and breathe," says Guerrero.

The Florida Department of Health says Florida has the most child drowning deaths in the country.

In an effort to save lives, The American Academy of Pediatrics says learning to swim around the time of a child's first birthday could be beneficial to prevent drowning deaths.

"Children should absolutely learn how to swim and obtain a survival float before they can walk," says Yazmin Acocella. She is a swim instructor and owner of Born to Swim.

"Because once they can walk, they're mobile. Once they are mobile, they can crawl into a pool. They can walk into a pool."

Her lessons focus not just on swimming, but, most importantly, surviving in the water.

"At six months, we are able to teach kids how to survive in the water— how to roll over from their belly to their back in a floating position, an independent floating position where they can rest and breathe," Acocella says.

Maytee Avetrani takes her granddaughter, who started before she turned one.

"At first it was really, really nerving," she admits when she saw her granddaughter in the water.

Once she got over her own initial fears, she says she was so impressed by how quickly her granddaughter adapted. She even went through a course where she learned to float fully clothed, simulating what it would be like after a fall in the pool.

Avetrani says with all the other activities children get involved in from an early age, swimming, should be a top priority.

"Ballet, soccer, karate," she says. "Then, I see 4 and 5 year olds that just can't swim."

"Anyone that's in the aquatics industry has the best of intentions for your child," Acocella says. "It's not a gimmick. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity."

May marks National Water Safety Month.

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