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When can we take down the pool fence?

August 2008

We are wondering when we would feel comfortable taking down our pool fence. The backyard just isn't as attractive with it up and we have an 8 y/o who is a compentent swimmer - not swim team-but can swim. I know that there are legal issues should some other child come into the yard, but we are more concerned about our own child accidentally falling in when outside. I would love to hear from pediatricians and the like as to what the customary response is these days. Anon

My father's realtor's nephew just died last week by falling into the neighbor's pool. The babysitter got distracted and he wandered into the next door neighbor's yard and fell into their pool (with no fence) and drowned. I don't know the legal issues, but I would urge you to leave the fence up. A pool is a very dangerous thing to small children, and safety precautions should be taken. Sarah
You should probably check with the city, but I would think that you need some kind of fence around your yard or pool, no matter who is living in the house--do you ever have small children to visit? Are there kids in the neighborhood who could wander into your yard? Catherine
You might not be so worried about other children coming in to your yard and drowning in your pool, but I am. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and every summer at least one child died in that community from drowning in a pool -- often one who had wandered in from next door. And personally, my child would have to be much older than 8 before I would stop worrying about their safety around the pool, even if they know how to swim. a stickler for pool safety
I think it is very irresponsible for you to take down the pool fence, even if your 8 yr old is a good swimmer. Kids from the neighborhood might try to swim and could drown and it is never a good idea for even a good swimmer to consider swimming alone which could happen. I read in freakanomics that if you have a gun in the house with a swimming pool, the odds are that a drowning would occur more often than an accidental shooting. I also have very close friends of my family whose grandson fell into a pool and he has been disabled his entire life. It was a devastating thing to that family. Much worse than an ugly fence. keep that fence up
How about never. Or maybe you could get the super duper strong automatic pool cover and be super vigilant about closing it. anon

Visiting a home with an unguarded pool w/toddler

July 2008

Hi, My family including 15 month old babe will soon be vacationing in a home with an unguarded pool. Besides constant baby surveillance (by momma who's afraid no one else could watch as closely) what do you suggest to keep baby safe? The pool is way too large to use some sort of gate. Do i keep water wings on her the entire time? or some sort of life vest? Swimming classes? (We leave on June 19) Thanks b

Your note made me think of a situation that happened to us just this summer. My daughter is 5 years old and a better swimmer than me. We spent 4th of July at a lake at family. She was playing on a floating dock with cousins and fell off of it into the lake twice that day while adults were around.

The 2nd time she fell in, I was about 3 feet away and had my back turned for a moment. The scary thing is that I didn't even hear it. The way she fell in was about as loud as someone dropping a coin into the water. Luckily she didn't panic and swam back to the dock just fine.

My understanding with floating devices and water wings is that they alone are not enough and even the manufacturers recommend adult supervision. I guess my point is that these things can happen so fast and so quietly, that you don't want to take any chances.

My feeling is with any child under 3 or 4, you have to be in the water with them even if they have floatie type things on. With my daughter, we still have an adult in with her. Mom of a Swimmer Who Fell In

Keep a lifevest on your child (the kind that has the strap between the legs, and which cannot be slipped out of) and have her mother stay with her at all times, even in the house. Kids are so incredibly fast, and bad things can occur in a short time period. Nanny wishing you a safe trip

In-laws' pool and 2-year-old - Safety Turtle?

May 2008

We will be visiting my in laws this summer with our just barely 2 year old. My in laws have an unfenced back yard swimming pool. While the adults are good a closing and locking the doors, my young nieces will be there and are not as reliable. What can I do to make sure she is safe? Has anyone used the Safety Turtle wrist band system? Any other ideas? - Scared of the Water

I haven't tried the Safety Turtle myself, but I do remember that Consumer Reports tested it out and was not impressed with it as a safety solution for pools. The (very brief) report is here:

Instead, what about talking to your in-laws about increasing the security of the fence itself? You might try an burgular- style alarm that sounds anytime anyone opens the fence. Or maybe just lock it with a key/padlock during the period of your visit, so that an adult (instead of your nieces) has to open it, and can ensure that it gets re-closed. Pool-wary

Oh, honey! This is not some buy-an-easy-solution and it'll all be OK. You need to be within grabbing distance of your toddler every moment you're in that house, and have him wear a life jacket when he's outside, even if you're there too. There have been three toddler drownings in Antioch in the last six months alone -- the last was just last week when a not-quite 2-year-old toddler opened the sliding glass door *herself*, toddled out and fell into the pool.A fourth child, a Brentwood 5-year-old, was successfully resuscitated. Don't mess around. Jackie,
We recently successfully used the Safety Turtle for a rented vacation house with an open pool. Three cousins aged 4, 2 and 1.5 wore the wrist/ankle bands (with some persuasion and focused convincing) 24 hours a day the whole time we were there. Once they got used to them they were no problem. We of course still supervised everyone, but it took a huge amount of stress out of the equation knowing that the alarm would sound if they fell or jumped in. The system works well - we tested it. You just have to take it off to wash their hands and make sure they don't suck on it, like my two year old was prone to do - he had to wear it on his ankle instead. There is no missing the alarm - it's LOUD. safe mama
Dear Scared of the Water – I completely understand your fear and it is a healthy one. Based on your concern, you probably know that drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional death for kids in the US. In states with warmer weather and more swimming pools, it is the number one cause of death for kids under age 5. For every child that drowns, four more are hospitalized for near drowning. Young children like yours are especially at risk—they’re curious and like to explore and that’s great for their development, but we need to make sure they do so in a safe environment.

I have a background in pediatric injury prevention. The way to prevent injuries is to have both adult supervision and a safe environment. You don’t say where you live but I would strongly encourage your in-laws to install a fence around their pool. In- ground swimming pools without complete four-sided isolation fencing are 60 percent more likely to be involved in drowning than those with four-sided isolation fencing.

I work at Home Safety Services, a Bay Area company that conducts in-home assessment and installation of safety products to reduce injuries for kids and seniors, but we also install removeable pool fencing. Our website is if you want more information.

On a personal note, I had a colleague who worked in injury prevention, actually in preventing drowning. Her young child died from drowning in the pool at a family party because everyone thought someone else was watching the child, and someone left the sliding glass door opened, and there was no fencing around the pool. I will never forget that story – a horrible, horrible tragedy, which probably could have been prevented had there been a designated adult supervisor and a fence around the pool.

I don’t know anything about the Turtle. I did look on their website and my concern is that the alarm sounds AFTER the child is in the water. Childhood drowning and near-drownings can happen in a matter of seconds. While the turtle might be better than nothing, active, constant supervision in conjunction with fencing are strongly recommended when children are around water.

It is great that you are thinking about this before your trip. I don’t mean to be an alarmist but your fears are well founded. if you have any questions. For more information about water safety, check out Take care, Dana

Which is more dangerous? A gun in the house or a swimming pool? The answer- a swimming pool. If you are in such a situation it is far more likely that your child will drown in the pool than they will be harmed by a firearm.

You wouldn't take your child to a house with guns lying around? Yet you will consider such false safety measures as a ''pool turtle'' as a safety measure. My goodness they don't even have a fence around the pool. Don't let her out of your sight/reach for even a second. don't let her drown

Floatation devices for 2-year-old?

July 2003

At what age did your children start using floatation devices in the pool (with supervision, of course)? My daughter is almost 2 and is very comfortable in the water. I am wondering if she could use those water wings or some other kind of flotation device to keep herself afloat and also to paddle around the pool while we swim with her. Liz

I take my 16m son to swim classes at the YMCA. The instructors teach us parents how to properly use flotation devices with infants and toddlers and what is not safe as well. Plus they give us great tachniques, games, and ideas about how to safely and efficiently hold our babies and swim with them in the water so that they can become competent little water babies, blow bubbles, kick their legs, etc...Really fun and the water is WARM! Jessica
I'm not a fan of these devices--when I was a lifeguard, the only kids I ever saved from drowning were the ones whose parents used these habitually. The problem was that the kids didn't know they couldn't swim--so if Mom turned her back for a minute by the poolside, the kids would jump back in without the floaties and sink like rocks. I saw it happen again and again, and on one occasion had to hand off the dripping kid in order to resuscitate the hysterical parent.

I suggest that if you use flotation devices with your non-swimmer, you also go in sometimes without them, and give your child the experience of feeling what the water is really like. Even if it's a bit scary and your child clings to you--give her a taste of swimming without floaties, for her own sake. Former lifeguard

If you can by-pass using any flotation devices for your child then I would do that. Our oldest never used any water wings or anything else and is a great swimmer now at 4.5 years. Then we had twins. In order to avoid having one of the twins inadvertently sink to the bottom of the pool we put them in water wings (they are now 2.5 but we started them in the wings last summer at 1.5). One loves the wings and the other wants to swim on her own now.

Child-proof cover for swimming pool

Nov 2004

Can anyone recommend a source for very, very, very childproof pool covers? We are even willing to drain the pool and cover it up for many years. Someone told me she'd seen photos of a pool cover that kids could even ride their bikes on -- sounds good to me! If it matters, what we're dealing with is a 50-foot lap pool. Thanks! As an alternative to covering up a pool, . . . any ideas what would be involved (workwise, permitwise, moneywise) in FILLING IN a 50-foot lap pool? Thanks! Anonymous

If you are willing to consider pool fencing, try ''Protect a child pool fencing''. It is made of some type of mesh, held together by tension, and can be removed at a later date when your children are proficient swimmers. We installed two of these fences at both grandparents' houses. We requested the special butterfly locks that even our five year old cannot undo.Of course, short of filling in the pool with concrete, nothing will be 100% (a child can drown in a bucket of water if left unattended) but, as a very saftey conscious person and overprotective mother, I have been happy with this type of fence. Try to find the company online or thru the tunnel in Walnut Creek, LaMorinda area where pools abound. We have friends in that area with three children and the same fencing. Ask for the butterfly locks. Kelly
I don't know if you would be willing to consider fencing. My husband and I had fencing installed at both grandparents' houses. The company is called ''protect a child pool fencing'' The fencing can be taken down at a later date when your children are proficient swimmers. It is some type of mesh, held by tension. We requested the special butterfly locks that even our five year old can not undo. Of course, around the pool, nothing is completely 100 % secure (can be accidently left open, etc.) but children can also drown in a bucket of water if left unsupervised. I am overprotective and paranoid about safety issues and have been pleased with this type of fencing. Try to find the company online or thru the tunnel in Walnut Creek area. Blythe

How to baby-proof a swimming pool

April 2002

Hello: I am seeking input on the best way to baby proof a pool. We are in the inspection period for our dream house. There is only one issue, it has a pool & it is freaking me out since we have two young children. Can anyone give any input on the permanent fences vs. the newer fences that can be taken down? Are both a fence & a pool cover required? Our kids are taking swim lessons (although I'm certainly not relying on this) & we will be putting high locks on our doors. But, in a perfect world I would like the kids to be able to play outside unsupervised at times. If there is a fence, can the kids play in the yard by themselves? I'd appreciate any thoughts on pool security.

For kidproofing, a fence is never enough. Learning to swim is never enough. Electronic alarmed water sensitive T- shirts won't do it either (they take them off). You need to do all those things and also remain constantly paranoid. Of the three children I knew well who have drowned - one was from the days before pool fencing and the other two were visiting at other people's houses. The one without the fencing was my four year old cousin, who had been taught to swim the summer before, but watching the pool being refilled in spring, bent over too far. One of the more recent ones was revived because the pool-owner raised the alarm. The parents then had a year worrying that his slowness in starting to speak was brain damage. In the third case the pool-owner raised the alarm but it was too late. Toddlers will fall into any body of water that's available to them. My daughter at 2 could climb any pool fence, and never bothered with latches. Children up to the age of 8 need to be watched closely, and after that if they're poor swimmers. Fiona
if you have a pool you obviously have to be vigilant. one solution is to get a swimming pool cover, with the key installed at a height only an adult can reach. the pool is only open when an adult is on duty: present and paying attention. when the adult leaves, they close it up. the covers are very strong, a child falling on it will not tear it. good luck. jo anne

Mosquitos & standing water in toddler pool

July 2003

I am very concerned about mosquitos (and west nile virus), and I am very careful not to leave standing water around anywhere. However, we have a little inflatable pool for our toddler, and I really hate to empty it out every time we use it. I don't like to waste the water, and I like it to warm up over the course of a few days, and I have noticed in the past that the racoons like to walk through it with muddy paws if it is not full. So, my question is, do I really have to empty it completely every time? How about if I add a bit of chlorine to it? Would that kill any larvae? What kind and how much would I add, and how often? If I did add chlorine, would that then be really bad to dump out on the grass every few days or so (I do empty it when it gets too buggy and dirty anyway)? I do not want to harm any wildlife, beneficial bugs, or the birds that eat them! I'm also concerned about my son swimming in and accidentally swallowing any mosquitos or larvae. What do others do with these pools? Thanks! Tracy

We have a toddler pool in our yard as well and have decided that filling it up each time and draining the water immediately after our kids get out is the only way to prevent a drowning accident. Obviously, I don't know where your pool is and whether your toddler can access it without your help, but before making the decision not to drain, I would run through all the various scenarios to make sure there is no way your child (or any other child) would try to get in while you aren't watching. Small children can potentially drown even in only a couple of inches of water, even if they can swim in a normal pool, so I'd recommend extreme vigilance around this issue. Melissa
We empty the wading pool after every use, and make a game out of using buckets to transfer most of the pool water onto the dry grass or into potted plants. I am concerned not only about critters getting into the water, which my daughter could swallow (or worse, whose waste my daughter could swallow), but also about drowning risks with other neighborhood children (or even my daughter, in a moment of inattention). water emptyer
Have you tried covering the pool at night with a tarp or something?? Anon
You don't need to change the water every day, it takes a while for the larva to become mosquitoes. Changing it once a week should be fine. anon
I have three comments: 1) Have you ever seen any mosquito larva in your pool? I have always been under the impression that mosquito prefer stagnant water, not fresh water. If there are larva, you will certainly see them. 2) I don't know if the chlorine or chloramines that are put in municipal water is enough to kill the larva, but you could ask the Alameda County mosquito abatement program. 3) Why not just put a cover on the pool? This would also make it safer for toddlers who might play near the pool ( I have read that toddlers can easily drown in just a few inches of water.) Gen
Regarding the toddler pool standing water, I would leave it up to a week without worry. We do, and we're still using it extensively! You could add very small amounts of chlorine or iodine, but I agree that if you repurpose it to water plants & lawn, you don't want to harm them. My greatest concern is small toddlers waddling into the pool and drowning, and so it should be in a safe location. Robert
Gary Bogue has a column in the contra costa times. he says changing the water every 3 days is adequate for preventing mosquitos. You can probably find his info on-line. eve
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