As summer approaches children look forward to swimming adventures. Many parents opt to put floating bands on their children for safety reasons. However, Amelie Bergeron, a mother of 3 children argues that this is not the best idea.
Amelie, could you share with us any real-life incidents that have occurred due to the use of floating bands?
My third child had a near drowning experience in our backyard pool when she was 2 and even if my husband and I were within arm’s reach. She was swimming next to us with her floating bands and got cold, so we took her outside of the swimming pool and sat next to us. A few minutes later a friend came to pick up something at home. While we were discussing with him my daughter went back to the swimming pool without her floaties and sank straight to the bottom of the pool. She was next to me, but I was not paying attention and she did it so silently neither I nor my husband realised she went silently into the pool until my eldest daughter asked us where she was…
What are the common misconceptions about floating bands and their safety?
Children believe they can swim on their own with them on and become reliant on them. They don’t need to be active in the water (kicking or moving arms) to float.
Parents might think their children are safe with armbands and won’t supervise the child closely. They are an attractive option for parents since they are usually the cheapest and lightest option on the market of floatation devices.
What are the potential dangers or risks associated with using floating bands?
A floating band can easily shift position, deflate, or unexpectedly sleep off from the child's arms. They are also very easy to take off for children.
Floating bands are a NO GO for two main reasons:
1- They give parents and the child a false sense of safety.
2- They teach poor swimming posture (they put the child’s body in a vertical position) and by teaching incorrect swimming habits delay your child's swimming progress.
REMEMBER: Toddlers don’t yell, cry, splash or give any sign of distress. Drowning with Toddler is completely silent since they don’t know they are drowning. My daughter was at the bottom at the pool, eyes wide open and watching us not realising she was drowning.
Are there any specific age groups or individuals who may be more at risk when using floating bands?
Younger children who have not started swimming lessons yet. It takes only 20 seconds for a child to drown.
Are there any alternative swimming aids, such as life vest that can be used instead of floating bands?
If using an adjustable floating vest that put the child into a swimming position and adjusts the floaties so that they just keep the child afloat if the child remains active in the water (kicking and moving arms). Always allow “floaties free time” so the child understands that only the floating device is keeping him afloat.
What safety precautions should parents or caregivers take when using a floating vest?
Check that your child knows that he is not allowed into the water without your permission.
- Start swimming lessons as soon as possible in an age appropriate swimming school.
-Enroll into CPR lessons and refresh your knowledge every year.
-If you have a pool make sure that fencing and gating are compliant all the time with safety regulations.
What would be your advice to parents?
REMEMBER THAT DROWNING IS SILENT and HAPPENS in 20 seconds: you have no choice but to stay with your child at all times at arms’ length + paying attention to them when nearby water. Any kind of floaties can delay swimming progress hence putting your child at risk to drown.