What not to wear in the pool

Ask any kid. Summer means fun in the water — be it the pool, the water park, the lake or the beach. For parents, that means providing young and inexperienced swimmers with a little help in the form of personal flotation devices.

But not all flotation devices are created equal, said Jennifer Northway, director of the Adult and Pediatric Injury Prevention Program at University Health. All sorts of inflatable novelty items can be found at the neighborhood store. But steer clear of those in favor of U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices for young children.

Approved vests will say they’re approved on the device. Conversely, those that aren’t approved must state that as well. Vests for infants and small children should have padded head support (to help keep their heads out of the water), a grab handle to lift the child out of the water in an emergency, one or two horizontal straps across the front and another strap between the legs. That between-the-legs strap is important in case the child is struggling in the water and you need to pull him or her out by the vest. Without the bottom strap, the child will slip right out. Youth-sized vests look like (and have the same features as) adult personal flotation devices.

The more straps a flotation device has, the more adjustments can be made for a snug fit.

"Parents need to select the right-sized life vest based on the child's current weight — not one they will grow into," Ms. Northway said.  "Otherwise they could slip out of the vest."

Check the packaging and label to see if it is in the weight range for your child. The good news is those approved flotation devices can be found in many sports and department stores — not just specialty stores. Texas law has requirements for personal flotation devices for children riding in boats.

Once your kids are properly equipped, make sure an adult has eyes on them at all times when they’re in or around water. Teach them to swim as early as possible. And consider learning CPR. You might save a life. More information on water safety can be found at the Safe Kids website.

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