Kids should learn to swim as young as 3 months old, teacher says
The sun is out, summer is here and that means more and more people will be headed to the pools, lakes, rivers and oceans for some fun. Unfortunately, that can also mean more drowning accidents, especially among children.
No child is ever safe in the water. There is always hazards so to think a child is drown-proof or 100% safe is false thinking, said Joe Oehme, owner and founder of New Jersey Swim Schools Inc., which operates out of Manasquan, Florham Park, Warren, Sparta and Roxbury.
He said drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death for kids under age 4. Oehme said that education and awareness are the most important ways to combat this epidemic. He said he believes every child should have swimming lessons starting as early as three months old. Parents also need to be educated on the hazards and water safety.
Pools should have barriers. Pool fences should be up and locked at all times. Pool alarms should also be in place.There should be proper signage in swimming areas. Rescue equipment should be on the scene and he stressed it's important to swim where lifeguards are present.
Parents should know CPR. Kids should be taught to know how to dial 911. Both parents and children should understand the concept of "Reach or Throw, Don't Go." Oehme said the first instinct when a person sees someone drowning is to jump in the water and try to save them. But a true hero is one who helps a person in need without putting themselves in danger. To do that, reach out for them if they are in arm's length. Throw something out to a child in the water to hold on to such as a rescue buoy.
But Oehme said it's important to keep a cool head and act in a way that's calm and not panicked.
At the ocean, he advised that people always swim near a lifeguard. Never swim after-hours. If an adult or child gets caught in a rip current, Oehme said it's important not to panic. The rip will mostly take a person out. It will end at some point so a person can swim out of it, parallel to the shore.
One myth Oehme wants to set straight is about drowning. In movies and TV shows, when a person is drowning, it's often shown with flailing arms and someone screaming for help. That is not the case in real life.
"Children slip underneath the water. It's quiet. It's silent. It's surreal. They slide underneath the water and it happens in a matter of minutes," said Oehme.
Children should simply learn how to swim. The American Pediatrics just changed their statement to read that children should enter swim lessons they they are 1 year old instead of 4 years old.
Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Ocean, has recently introduced legislation that would allow water safety education for grades K-12 in New Jersey schools.
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