In Part 1, we considered the argument against using inflatable floating pool toys for children. Despite warning labels, many parents unfortunately consider these toys to be personal flotation devices and unwisely leave young children who are unable to swim unsupervised in them. Even looking away for a brief moment can lead to tragedy. Of course, this need not be the case in your backyard swimming pool. We’ll look at the reasoning behind the risk as well as alternatives to inflatables.
Warnings from Experts
The link between flotation devices and drownings is such a concern to Dr. Ralph Rucker, director of pediatric pulmonary services of Children’s Hospital of Orange County, that he encourages parents to see the danger of them as “so severe” that it’s not out of line to consider them akin to “a knife or a whirling fan.” As a result of their prominence in backyard swimming pools, the toys have brought him to see pools as “a lethal luxury.” A major reason for this caution is that most flotation devices are not designed for the young children who often use them; because small children’s bodies are typically out of proportion to their heads, the potential for tipping is more extreme.
The director for the CPSC in San Francisco, Lee Baxter, asserts that inflatable toys are always a poor choice for children who are not yet able to swim. For those individuals, he says this: “The only device I’d be comfortable with is one certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.” Along those lines, let’s look at some flotation devices that are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Cautions from All Angles
Even amid listings of the most highly rated personal flotation devices (or PFDs), many cautions are included: not even the best PFD is intended to substitute for adult supervision. Such a device is only one aspect of a water-safety plan — albeit an important one. Along with making sure children take swimming lessons and parents learn CPR, careful supervision is also extremely important. While children do need to learn what it feels like to be in the water without a life vest, if they are not yet confident swimmers, children should always be carefully supervised and have on a PFD whenever they’re beyond arm’s reach in or near water. Even mere minutes can cause irreparable brain damage or death.
Recommendations Regarding PFDs
There are a few things we suggest you look for when it comes to choosing a PFD. The first is that it has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). When a PFD has been approved by the USCG, you know that it has gone through extensive testing that ensures it will keep a person afloat in a safe position with head above water, if for some reason that person is unable to do so on his or her own. You can easily look inside any life jacket or vest to see if it has the USCG stamp of approval and can find approved PFDs at all kinds of brick-and-mortar stores as well as online retailers.
In our next post, we’ll look at more specific recommendations regarding choosing a USCG-approved PFD for your child.
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