'Never leave a child alone' and other water safety tips from a swim coach

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Nicole Maenzanise teaches at a swim school in Cape Town.
Nicole Maenzanise teaches at a swim school in Cape Town.

As the weather begins to warm up and our thoughts turn to summer days by the pool and long afternoons on the beach, we also need to keep water safety in mind, especially when children are concerned.

Nicole Maenzanise, a swimming coach at Simply Swimming school in Cape Town's southern suburbs, shares with us the main dangers children face around water and includes tips for parents to help keep their kids safe this summer. 

Top tips

While we know that children risk drowning when they are swimming or playing in a body of water, Maenzanise warns that children are, in fact, at risk due to reasons such as being pushed or dunked into the water, or falling or slipping into the water.

"Hidden currents in rivers or oceans will make it difficult for children to swim, and even for able swimmers," she warns. 

Her number one tip that parents and caregivers need to know to keep their children safe is to never leave a child alone in or near the water. 

"Parents also need to be aware of the depth of the water, and they need to inform their children not to jump or dive in an area they are not familiar with," she says. 

Parents and caregivers must also make sure that the children are not eating or chewing while playing or swimming in the water. "Always keep the pool locked and covered at all times and never leave any toys around the pool when adults are not present so that the children are not tempted to go back to the pool," she adds. 

Don't panic

If a child falls into the water, parents and caregivers must not panic, she says, and they must give very clear instructions to the child to get to the wall safely, if the child can swim. 

"They must quickly pull those that cannot swim out, and when the child is out of the water, they must quickly take the child to the nearest hospital for a check to see if the child has inhaled water into their lungs," Maenzanise stresses. 

She says that if your child's nanny, au pair or caregiver cannot swim, she would recommend that the caregiver goes for swimming classes.

"Also, make sure there is a floating device around for the caregiver to use to prevent a child from drowning, and teach the child's caregiver how to use it," she says, adding that parents should encourage the caregiver to do first aid training.

A life skill

For those who want to teach their children water safety but don't have a pool, Maenzanise suggest parents take their children to a swim school to learn the basics. 

Children can also be encouraged to practice blowing bubbles with their faces underwater in the bathtub, and they can practice kicking on the bed.

She adds that parents should educate their children on the importance of breathing correctly when swimming.

"Swimming is a wonderful life skill," Maenzanise says, "never wait for something to happen to invest and teach them this ability."  

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