10 things parents should remember about swimming this summer

Are your little ones begging to go swimming now that summer is here?

Earlier this year, new research showed swimming pools (including home, public, hotel and portable pools) were the number one location for children drowning between the age of 0-4 years.

Of the 29 drowning deaths in children aged 0-4 years last financial year, almost half of them (45%) happened in swimming pools around Australia.


Every year for the past 10 years, 30 children under the age of 5 have drowned in Australia.

This is why Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor believes new and young parents need to know how to prevent the risks young children are exposed to in swimming pools and spas.

“It can take as little as 5cm of water and an unsupervised child for a drowning to occur”, says Dr Harvey.

“Whether it’s a pool in your backyard, the public pool down the road, or the hotel pool your family is using, there are major risks to a child’s health and safety”.

If unsafe conditions arise in pools and spas, children can be at risk of fatal drowning, near drowning, dry drowning/secondary drowning (whilst rare, this occurs after leaving the water), infections and physical injuries.

“The implications alone with near drowning can be pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, brain damage, and chemical and fluid imbalances”, says Dr Harvey.

“Not to mention that some children might experience psychological trauma from a near-drowning event.”

Whilst there are risks to letting young children swim in pools and spas, new or young parents should encourage safe swimming.

“Swimming is first and foremost an essential survival skill for children. It’s also a great way for children to exercise and have fun in the outdoors”, says Dr Harvey.

To help your children have a fun and safe time in all pools and spas, here are Dr Harvey’s 10 tips:

  1. Make sure your pool or spa has compliant fencing to your state’s regulation.
    Check SPASA for your state’s pool fence regulations.
  2. Ensure there is no furniture for children to use to climb over the fence.
    A locked gate doesn’t stop children from figuring out how to get into the pool.
  3. Supervise your child at all times in the water.
    Unless your child is 16 years old, never rely on them to supervise their younger sibling.
  4. Never let your children cover a pool’s filter inlet or spa jets
    Hair, bathing suit strings, tassels and even body parts can become entangled in an improperly covered drain or suction point.
  5. Never let your children put their head under water in Spas
    Warm, shallow water is the perfect breeding ground for infections, particularly for the ear. Take your child to your local GP as soon as they start showing signs of an ear infection.
  6. Have ‘No Diving’ signs in your pools
    Children love to dive into pools, but often they don’t realise how shallow a pool can be. This can prevent little ones having major physical injuries.
  7. Empty paddling pools, baths, basins, sinks and trough when they are not in use.
    This can prevent the risk of drowning when you’re not watching the children.
  8. Keep yourself up to date with CPR
    More than 40% of Australian parents reported they do not know first aid for a drowning child. Don’t be one of those parents. Complete a first aid and CPR course.
  9. Check floatation toys
    Floatation toys should not be relied on as safety devices. Always check the warning labels and follow the instructions for proper assembly use. Throw them out immediately for any signs of wear and tear.
  10. Keep your kids up to date with swimming lessons
    Infants as young as 4 months can start swimming lessons, depending on their medical history. Attending lessons as a regular part of a child’s weekly routine through their infant, preschool and early school years is a great way to give your child the best development of their swimming.


Dr R.HARVEYAbout the author
Dr Ryan Harvey is the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor and is highly experienced in paediatrics. He has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities and now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.