This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 4:08 PM
As parents get ready to open their pools for the summer, there are several issues for them to consider about having the baby in the water with them. On the one hand, water play has a number of advantages. It gives parents and children a chance to have fun together, encourages physical activity, development of large muscle skills and hand-eye co-ordination.
On the flip side, however, there are some potential concerns. Bacteria can be transmitted through water and infants can quickly become exposed to infections such as diarrhea, swimmer’s ear, swimmer’s itch, and other skin rashes. An infant’s body doesn’t regulate temperature as effectively as an adult’s and is at risk of hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature). Chemicals such as chlorine may harm emerging teeth.
Sometimes parents are concerned about "drownproofing" the baby. It isn’t possible to drownproof anyone, least of all a baby! Part of the process of attempting this is to force the baby under the water so that he will learn to hold his breath while under water. Although an infant may reflexly hold his breath, he will continue to swallow anything that enters his mouth. Excessive swallowing of water will cause "water intoxication" in a baby. Babies are more at risk because they have a smaller blood volume which requires less water to dilute. Water intoxication can cause restlessness, weakness, nausea, muscle twitching, stupor, convulsions, and coma 3 to 8 hours after the swim.
To help prevent or reduce any of these potential problems without keeping the baby totally out of the pool, here are some strategies to follow.
In terms of general safety, be sure that all infant activity is one-to-one with a responsible adult. Coast Guard approved vests should be worn by all babies and young children when around water. Teach and enforce safety rules and limits around the pool. Enjoy your time in the water with your baby, but keep these rules in mind for baby’s safety and your peace of mind.
For more information about infant health, please call the Lambton Public Health at 519-383-8331 or 1-800-667-1839