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Swimming: Have fun, stay safe

Summer means most of us will be in a pool or at the beach. Although taking a dip is a great way to beat the heat, swimming can be dangerous. Certain measures should be taken to ensure a safe time for you and your family.

Drowning is one of the leading cause of death and disability in children under 4 years old. There are more drownings annually in Pinellas than in any other county in Florida.

Parents need to be aware of the dangers to children by any body of water. Young children and children with seizure disorders should never be left unattended in bathtubs or near swimming pools or beaches.

Drowning in swimming pools can be prevented if the pool is surrounded by a 5-foot, self-closing, self-latching gate. However, safety gates are not foolproof; always inspect the gate latches before allowing children to go outside. And remember the house is no barrier to the pool if a house door opens onto the pool area.

No one should swim alone, and even supervised children should wear personal flotation devices when playing in lakes or riding in a boat. However, not all flotation devices are created equally. Use life jackets that are Coast Guard-approved and labeled as such. Flotation devices worn on the upper arms of small children are not Coast Guard-approved.

If you enroll a child under 3 in a swim class, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the class adhere to guidelines established by the national YMCA.

YMCA classes emphasize safety, and parents participate. My 18-month-old son's fear and dislike of the water turned into enjoyment after a few lessons.

Even after you take all possible safety precautions, an accident may occur. Older children and adults should learn CPR since prompt resuscitation may increase chances of curvival or may lessen damage.

Reading about CPR is not adequate training to perform it. All parents and anyone who is responsible for the care of children should complete a course in basic CPR.Still, here's a brief guide to admininstering CPR to infants and children:

First, get the child out of the water and position him or her back on a flat, hard surface. If someone else is present, send him or her to call for emergency medical help. Look, listen and feel to assess if the victim is breathing. If you are alone and the victim is not breathing, shout for help and then perform CPR for one minute before calling 911.

If the victim is not breathing, open the victim's airway with the head-tilt chin-lift maneuver. If you detect no breathing once the airway is open, give two slow breaths to the victim. If the victim is an infant, place your mouth over the infant's nose and mouth. If the victim is a child, make a mouth-to-mouth seal and pinch the nose closed with your thumb and forefinger. Look to see that the victim's chest is rising during the breaths to see that ventilation is adequate.

After the two breaths, check the victim's pulse. With an infant, check the brachial pulse on the inside of the upper arm between the elbow and shoulder. In an older child, check the carotid pulse on the side of the neck.

If a pulse is present but spontaneous breathing is absent, provide breaths at a rate of 20 per minute (once every three seconds) until paramedics arrive. If there is no pulse, begin chest compressions.

CPR courses are offered at American Red Cross, 898-3111; All Children's Hospital (infant and child CPR only), 892-4188; St. Petersburg Junior College, 341-4454; and Edward White Hospital, 323-1111, ext. 1030.

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