As the school year draws to a close and Lehigh Valley parents consider economical ways to keep the kids entertained this summer, many will turn to their own backyards. With an abundance of inexpensive swimming pools, slides, and sprinklers on the market, it’s easy to find a good fit for both the outdoor space and the budget. Before opening the tap parents should be aware that even the shallowest of pools and water slides present some of the same health and safety issues as permanent pools.
Even in a wading pool, there is a risk of drowning. Infants and pre-school age children swimming or playing in or around water, even in shallow wading pools, should be supervised at all times by a responsible adult who isn’t distracted by reading, talking on the phone, or other tasks. The Academy of Pediatrics published a report using data compiled by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission from 2001 through 2009 involving submersion injuries to children younger than 12 years in portable pools. The majority of drowning cases occurred in children under the age of five years of age, in their own back yards, and during the summer months with a significant number of cases taking place in “wading pools”.
In addition to wading pools, many homes now have large, inflatable pools that remain up for an extended period of time, often for the entire summer season. Whether or not these “portable” pools fall outside of pool fencing requirements, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests surrounding them by a fence that meets the same guidelines as a permanent pool so that unsupervised children can’t gain access.
Another consideration with portable pools and other small home water play attractions is recreation water illness, or RWIs, which occur through contact with and swallowing contaminated water. Many small inflatable and plastic backyard pools and water slides are filled with tap water and don’t have chlorine or filtration systems. While there may be some disinfectant in municipal tap water, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that it’s not adequate to kill germs that may get into the water when used for swimming. It is recommended that portable pools be emptied after each use, cleaned and allowed to dry in the sun for at least four hours before using it again. If your pool is too large to empty after each use, it should have an appropriate disinfecting and filtration system that meets the same guidelines as permanent pools.
Enjoy this season of fun in the sun and keep your family safe by taking the necessary steps to provide a safe, healthy backyard water play space.