Every day, three South African children will die by drowning. A sobering fact for parents. The great outdoors and all the sun-soaked adventures that await your family are an integral part of a South African childhood, which means that it’s crucial you school yourself on water safety tips. Carte Blanche recently ran a segment about the high incidence of death by drowning in the summer months. According to this article on their website, the majority of emergency calls made to Netcare 911 relate to water-related emergencies.

Take a first-aid course.

Being a parent is one of life’s greatest joys, which means it’s also one of, if not the biggest responsibility you’ll shoulder. It’s wise for all to undergo some sort of first aid training, but for parents, this should be essential. There are numerous reputable institutions that offer first aid training and child CPR courses, including BLS Medical. If your little one has an au pair or is cared for by a housekeeper, ensure that they’re also trained and have emergency contact details on hand.

Child-proof your swimming pool.

It’s far better having a pool fence that resembles Alcatraz than even having to contemplate the danger of a child drowning. Experts advocate the use of layered-barriers - make sure all door and windows leading outside are latched and erect a fence with a lockable gate or install a pool cover that doesn’t collect puddles of water.

Teach your children to swim as soon as possible.

The average rule of thumb for swimming readiness is three to four years. This is the age where children are ready to learn and acquire swimming and water safety skills. That said, it’s a good idea to introduce your toddler to water as early as possible. Many gyms offer ‘Moms and tots’ swimming groups, however these are mainly for socialisation. A toddle is able to float on her back, but this skill is often lost as soon as she begins to sit up. For this reason, children under the age of three, or older children who haven’t yet learned how to swim must always be accompanied by an adult when in or around any potential water hazard – this includes baths, koi ponds, fountains, and buckets of water. Remember that children can drown in as little as an inch of water.
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Besides water, the outdoors holds many potential dangers for small children.

Educating your child about water safety is only half of the battle won. While you may think your child is safe playing on her own outside just because you don’t have a swimming pool or pond, gardens contain many hazards that can be fatal. Before exploring your garden with your toddler, child-proof any outdoor areas that she’ll have access to. Get rid of any poisonous plants, seal any holes in boundary fences, and make sure that there are no pesticides and insecticides lying around. Pick up all pet excrement – curious mouths don’t know the difference between poo and pudding.

Be strict about sun cream

The South African sun is especially harsh – even more so for sensitive young skin. According to the Cancer Association of South Africa, we have the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. Make sunscreen a pre-requisite before all members of the family venture outdoors. This should be a daily routine – keep the sun cream next to your child’s toothbrush as a reminder, and keep a spare bottle in the boot of your car for days when you’re racing the clock to get them to school on time. Remember that no sun cream offers complete protection from sun, despite what the label might claim. CANSA advises to stay out of direct sunlight between 10am and 3pm, to use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 20, and to wear protective clothing when engaging in any form of outdoor activity.
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For more tips on keeping your children safe – indoors and out - download our Child Safety Guide here.

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Image credit - She Knows    
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