It’s that time of year again! The sun is out, the kids are home from school, and pools are dragged into backyards. Can babies swim?
Can they even get in a collection without supervision? What about drowning? This blog post will discuss all these questions and more to help you keep your family safe during those hot summer days.
When can a baby go into a pool?
If you had a water birth, technically speaking, your baby has already been in a pool. Of course, that’s not what we are discussing; but the fact remains that your baby can go into the water at any age if the surrounding conditions are given your cautioned attention.
That being said, the chemical content and risks involved in most swimming pools mean that your baby should be at least six months old before taking a dip.
The key is to make sure that the area around your pool is free of all potential hazards. You want to ensure that a baby won’t find any sharp objects or swallow anything dangerous if they get into the water.
If you have these types of things lying around, then it might not be safe for your little one.
What are the risks of taking a baby in a pool?
Before you take your little one in the pool, consider the following:
Because infants have a more challenging time regulating their body temperatures, you will need to check the pool water’s temperature before allowing your baby to go in.
Most babies are susceptible to temperature changes. The ratio of skin surface area to body weight is higher than that of an adult, so babies are more sensitive to water and even room temperatures than they are. If the water feels cold to you, it is too hard for your little one.
Hot tubs and heated pools hotter than 100°F (37.8°C) are unsafe for children younger than three years old.
Many chemicals are used to keep a pool bacteria-free. If the levels are not adequately managed, bacteria and algae can grow in the pool.
According to a 2011 study, exposure to the chlorine used in swimming pools during infancy can increase the risk of bronchiolitis.
Children who didn’t attend daycare and spent more than 20 hours in a pool during infancy were at an even higher risk with an increased chance of having asthma and respiratory allergies later in childhood.
Though this raises concerns about infant swimming safety, more research is needed to confirm the connection.
Keep an eye on the amount of pool water your baby swallows! You’ll want your baby to eat as little pool water as possible. We’ll discuss the risks of bacteria and infection due to ingesting pool water below.
Saltwater pools have lower chlorine levels than traditional pools, but they are not chemical-free. The water in saltwater pools is gentler for your baby’s sensitive skin, but other risk factors and guidelines for safety still apply.
Infections and nasty poop
The cleanest of all clean pools can hold all sorts of invisible contaminants. A lot of the bacteria that contaminate a tool trusted Source can cause an infant to have diarrhoea.
And subsequent diarrhoea in the pool can cause eye infections, ear and skin infections, respiratory and gastrointestinal issues… poop in a pool is terrible.
Babies younger than two months of age have extremely vulnerable immune systems. It’s one of the main reasons you’re told to keep your baby away from crowds for the first six weeks.
And again, babies tend to put their hands in their mouths. Think about that for a moment.
Swim diapers appear to “contain” faecal matter; swim diapers aren’t effective enough to prevent this poopy situation.
Recreational water illnesses can be pretty serious, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.
Should an accident occur, everyone needs to get out of the pool immediately. The CDCTrusted Source outlines how to rebalance and chemically clean the pool, making it safe to get in again.
Water safety for babies
Never leave your baby alone — or in the care of another young child — in or near a pool. Drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death trusted Source among children 1 to 4 years old, with children 12 to 36 months old being at highest risk.
It takes as little as one inch of water, a few seconds, for a child to drown. And it’s silent.
You should always stay within one arm’s reach whenever your baby is near the pool. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests using touch supervision.
This means your baby should always be within an arm’s reach near the water so that you could reach out and touch them instantly. This may be tiring, but nothing is more important.
Keep your towels, phone, and any other items you may want within an arm’s reach, too, minimizing the number of times you have to carry your slippery little swimmer in and out of the water.
In addition to close and constant supervision, the AAP recommends using 4-foot high pool fences on all four sides of the pool and with childproof locking gates.
If you own a collection, be sure to check the gate frequently to make sure it works and locks appropriately.
Water wings, floaties, or other inflatable toys are fun but don’t rely on them to keep your baby safe in the water and stay out of the deep end.
A life jacket approved by the United States Coast Guard will fit more snugly and is safer than the standard arm floaties we remember from childhood.
Regardless of what you may use to help your small child stay afloat, always remain within an arm’s reach as your baby explores this weightless, free-range playtime.
For additional safety, keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) next to the pool and enrol your little one in swim lessons as soon as they are developmentally ready.
EvidenceTrusted Source reveals that many children older than 1-year-old will benefit from swim lessons, though there are many classes available for infant “self-rescue” survival swimming (also known as ISR lessons).
Sun safety for babies
According to the AAP, babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. If you’re out and about with your babe, it is best to stay in the shade as much as possible and limit sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
Even on cloudy days, the sun’s rays are strong enough to cause a sunburn.
Using umbrellas, stroller canopies, hats with neck flaps, and UPF 50+ sun-protected clothing that covers your baby’s arms and legs will help prevent sunburn.
For sunscreen, don’t apply anything less than 15 SPF, and be sure to cover the smaller areas, like your baby’s face, ears, neck, feet, and back of hands (don’t forget how often babies put their hands in their mouths).
You will want to test the sunscreen on a small area of your baby’s back first to ensure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or every 2 hours.
If your baby gets a sunburn, apply a cool compress to the affected skin. If the sunburn blisters, seems painful, or if your baby has a temperature, contact your paediatrician or family doctor.
Even though it is safe for your baby to get into the water at any age, even you should wait to go in the pool until your doctor or midwife has cleared you to avoid getting an infection post-birth (usually about six weeks, or until seven days after vaginal bleeding stops).
Waiting until your baby is six months is safer for your little one’s growing immune system and body. In the meantime, you can enjoy warm baths for water fun.
This may feel like an overwhelming amount of precautions, but following the guidelines and tips mentioned above can help keep your baby safe as you enjoy the warmer weather and some poolside fun with your little one.
This long-form content covers critical points about pool safety for babies. The information includes how to keep your baby safe near the water, what you’ll need when supervising a child in the water, and some of the most important considerations when it comes to sun protection as well. Use this article now to help ensure that your little one has fun without ending up with a severe injury or illness!