Pick the Right Life Vest for Your Kid

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.

Approved Personal Flotation Devices

Not all flotation devices are created equal, said Jennifer Northway, director of injury prevention at University Health. Inflatable novelty items can be found at your neighborhood store, but they might not be helpful in an emergency. Steer clear of novelties 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.

Pick the Right Size Vest

"Parents need to select the right-sized life vest based on the child's current weight — not one they will grow into," 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.

More Water Safety Tips

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.

Injury Prevention at University Health

Learn more about injury prevention at University Health for kids and adults on our website.

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