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Updated Guidelines on Preventing Drowning Deaths for Children

June 7, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - The summer swimming season is here, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its guidelines on how to keep children safe around water. The AAP has long recommended swimming lessons for children ages four and older, and new evidence suggests kids between the ages of one and four could benefit from lessons, too.

Dr. Denise Dowd, who is an emergency-room physician, served on the committee that helped create the guidelines.

"It's not that the AAP recommends swim lessons for kids under four years of age, but suggests that parents consider it."

Dowd says parents should base their decisions on their children's physical abilities, gauging their fear of the water, along with how frequently they're exposed to the water.

Dowd points out that swimming lessons alone are not a complete prevention. She says supervision is equally, if not more, important.

"It's not just one thing that helps prevent drowning; it's actually multiple layers of things. And that's really the take-home message for parents, is that they think in terms of layers of protection."

While drowning deaths have declined nationwide over the last 20 years, they remain the second-leading cause of unintentional death for children ages one to 19.

AAP advice is at www.aap.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA