Why learn to swim? While drowning death rates have decreased over time for most age groups, children under age 5 still have the highest risk of drowning. Let’s get the medical opinion of Dr. Weiss MD, FAAP and lead author of the policy statement regarding drowning prevention.

“Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death in children. To protect their children, parents need to think about layers of protection,” said Jeffrey Weiss.

“Children need to learn to swim,” Dr. Weiss said. “But even advanced swimming skills cannot ‘drown-proof’ a child of any age. In the new policy, the AAP reinforces its existing recommendation that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but the AAP is now more open toward classes for younger children. New evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. The studies are small, and they don’t define what type of lessons work best, so the AAP is not recommending mandatory swim lessons for all children ages 1 to 4 at this time. “Not every child will be ready to learn to swim at the same age,” Dr. Weiss said. “Swimming lessons can be an important part of the overall protection, which should include pool barriers and constant, capable supervision.” AAP offers specific advice for parents:

Children need to learn to swim. AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older. Classes may reduce the risk of drowning in younger children as well, but because children develop at different rates, not all children will be ready to swim at the same age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org

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