As temperatures rise and swimming season approaches, the focus on water safety becomes crucial. May marks National Water Safety Month, highlighting the importance of summer swimming rules for children of all ages.

Rowdy Gaines, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, emphasizes the urgency of this issue, noting that he receives numerous Google alerts daily about child drownings. He stresses the heartbreaking reality that drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4, with a 28% increase in child drownings from 2019 to 2022 according to new CDC data.

The CDC emphasizes the effectiveness of formal swim lessons in reducing the risk of drowning, prompting Gaines to collaborate with Step Into Swim to provide funding for swim lessons for children.

Even as children grow older and learn to swim, the danger persists. Drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children aged 5 to 14, with 40% of these deaths occurring in natural water settings like lakes, ponds, or oceans.

Gaines stresses that supervision is essential for children under 18, whether by a lifeguard or a parent, despite the perception of increased safety for children who have learned to swim.

Rowdy Gaines highlights several dangers that older kids may face in swimming settings, including running or slipping on the pool deck, engaging in rough play like dunking their friends, jumping headfirst, or encountering riptides in natural water bodies.

Despite having swim technique, children aged 5 to 14 often lack the awareness to protect themselves fully. Gaines humorously notes their sense of invincibility, recalling his own childhood experiences. He emphasizes the importance of tailored rules for swimming, which may vary based on individual children and can evolve as their swimming skills improve.

A crucial tip for parents, particularly during group swim gatherings, is to designate at least one adult as the "water watcher" responsible for supervising all children closely, akin to a lifeguard's role.

Gaines underscores the silent nature of drowning, emphasizing that it does not resemble dramatic scenes from movies. Instead, a drowning child may appear to be bobbing up and down like others, making it imperative for adults to remain vigilant and attentive at all times.