Turn on the faucet, and fill up the $15 portable pool. It’s an inexpensive way for kids to cool off on a hot summer’s day, and thousands do. A new study warns parents that portable pools are not without risks.
The report, published in the journal Pediatrics, evaluated the number of fatal and nonfatal submersions by children under 12 years old in portable pools. Using data from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission for the years 2001 and 2009, the researchers found that 209 children drowned in portable pools during that time. Thirty-five children had accidents, but survived.
"Over the last decade, we've seen an increase in the number of people who use portable pools, and in many cases, it's our impression that parents may not be aware of their risks," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Injury Research and Policy Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and lead author of the study.
A child dies every five days because of drowning in a portable pool- an astounding statistic that should be a wake-up call to any parent or caregiver.
Researchers also found that the majority of accidents involved children under the age of 5, with seventy-three percent taking place in the child’s own yard. Eighty percent of water accidents happen in the summer.
"Drowning is different than other injuries," said Smith. "In many other injuries, kids get a second chance. When they fall on the playground, they may break their arm, but they get a second chance. Drowning outcomes can be so severe that primary prevention is absolutely essential because it's so quick and final."
In-ground pools often have safety features including covers, alarms, fencing and ladders. Portable pools on the other hand, are inexpensive and come with no safety features. Adding any of the above safety features would actually cost more than the pool itself.
The study noted a rapid spike in water accidents from 2001 to 2005 before they leveled off from 2005 to 2009. Experts said that portable pool companies were beginning to market their items at that time. The pools quickly became a favorite choice for small children as an alternative to city pools or installing an in-ground pool. Perhaps because of their size and shallow depths, parents and caregivers have underestimated the risks.
"As remarked in the study, we saw a big increase about five years ago, when these portable inflatable pools became available and were heavily marketed," said Dr. Anne Brayer, associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at University of Rochester School of Medicine.
"Parents should really think long and hard about having such a pool with toddlers," said Brayer.
The same safety guidelines that apply to larger in-ground pools, apply to portable pools as well.
- Provide a barrier. Barriers are not childproof, but they provide layers of protection for a child who strays from supervision. Barriers give parents additional time to locate a child before the unexpected becomes a reality.
- Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
- Do not consider young children to be drown proof because they have had swimming lessons. Children must be watched closely while swimming.
- Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Babysitters and other caretakers, such as grandparents and older siblings, should also know CPR.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool. Be sure a telephone is poolside with emergency numbers posted nearby.
- Remove toys from in and around the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
Portable pools can provide hours of entertainment for children. For some families, it’s just not summer till the inflatable or plastic pool is hauled out and filled up. Just make sure that children are never left alone while they splish-splash the day away.