WATCHING the kids play in the paddling pool in the sun is one of life's little pleasures.
But in the middle of a scorching British summer, experts have a warning for parents.
Even though it is tempting, the potential consequences of leaving a child alone by water, even for a few minutes, could be tragic.
Just a few inches of water can be deadly.
Hannah Smith, director of aquatics at kids' swimming school Water Babies said: “Paddling pools are great fun in the garden on a hot summer's day, but always keep water safety a priority, even if your children are in a paddling pool with just a few inches of water.”
The Child Accident Prevention Trust that "drowning is silent".
It says: "A drowning child can’t speak or control their arms. They slip quietly under the water. It’s only in the movies they splash about and cry for help. It’s a scary thought.
"Babies drown silently in as little as 5cm of water."
Paddling pools aren't the only potential risk – garden ponds are in fact the most common place for a young child to drown at home, followed by the bath.
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Drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death in children, according to Swim England.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says that in the past decade, since 2012, 40 children under five years old have drowned at home.
It says "even a paddling pool can be dangerous, especially if a young child is left unattended".
Meanwhile, 30 children under 10 years old have died in swimming pools abroad in the past six years.
When it comes to open water studies suggest drownings increase by 70 per cent during a heatwave.
Professor Mike Tipton, who has an MBE for his research in extreme environments, told The Sun that regardless of someone's swimming ability, they are at risk of drowning in open water.
He said: “Because of the physical differences between air and water, air heats up really quickly in early summer, but water takes time.
“Seawater and inland waters get to their warmest around September."
This means that for the majority of summer, the water is a lot cooler than you might expect, especially on a hot day when the temperature is in the mid to high-20s.
Temperatures of 15C are half that of typical swimming pools heated to 30C. The average temperature of UK and Irish waters is 12C.
Prof Tipton said: “The response to sudden cold water immersion can cause a range of physiological responses (gasping, hyperventilation) that can quickly result in drowning.
“There is also a sudden increase in blood pressure and the strain placed upon the heart that can result in heart problems.”
Prof Tipton, of the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth, said more than half of cold-water deaths occur within the first minutes of immersion.
He said when the skin suddenly cools down, it stimulates the ‘cold shock’ response.
Prevent the worst
To help prevent any dangers, Hannah gave some tips to families using pools this summer.
She said: “When it comes to emergency and survival, every second counts.
“If you are abroad, make sure you know the emergency number and it is always advisable to have a first aid kit with you.
“Flotation devices can be a fun experience for babies and children, however they can drift away with currents and tides, or even tip over with your little one inside.”
Hannah said water should be a minimum of 30C, or if your baby is under 12 weeks or 12 pounds it should be even higher at 32C.
She said you should always be aware if there is a lifeguard present, where the deep end is and if there are any slippery or cracked surfaces.
The swimming expert recommended having a designated adult to watch kids, even if there is a lifeguard present, and non-swimmers should be within an arm’s length away.
She said at Water Babies the average starting age is between three and four months, but they have pupils as young as a day old in their classes.
Advice for parents from The RLSS Drowning Prevention Society
To keep your kids safe…
- Always lock gates and fences to stop kids from gaining access to water.
- Securely cover all water tanks and drains.
- Empty paddling pools and buckets straight after use, and turn them upside down.
- Always supervise bathtime, and empty the bath immediately afterwards.
- Check the safety arrangements before going on holiday – is there a lifeguard at the beach?
- Check bathing sites for hazards, and always read the signs.
- Always swim with your kids, and beware of dangerous rip currents in the sea.
- Never use lilos and dinghies in open water – there are drownings every year where people are dragged out to sea.
- Don't swim near rocks, piers, breakwater or coral.
- Swim parallel to the beach, and close to the shore.
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