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The Dangers of Water Wings in an Aquatic Environment

February 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 105

Water wings have been used for years in pool environments without families knowing the potential dangers associated with them. As a former lifeguard, I have worked at numerous facilities, some of which allowed water wings and some of which did not. It is unfortunate that more facilities have not banned the toy because there is a great deal of risk associated with using them. Most of the risk comes from a misunderstanding about their use in a pool environment and what they are intended to do.

The facts are:

1. Water wings are not United States' Coast Guard approved flotation devices and they should not be used as such. While most families would argue that they don't use them as life preservers, actions often speak louder than words and therein lies one of the great dangers. I can't count how many times I saw helpless children with no swimming ability, whatsoever, floating around the deep end of a pool while parents turned their back. As a lifeguard approaching such parents, their response was usually along the lines of "He'll be okay. He's in his water wings." This attitude of treating these like a life jacket is an enormous danger, partly because 9 times out of 10, Junior is just fine. But the difference between a fun day at the pool and just a single aquatic accident can be life shattering. One accident is far too many and treating water wings like a life jacket is rolling the dice.

2. Furthering the danger of inappropriate attitudes about water wings is the fact that they are not well constructed. Unlike a life jacket, sometimes they come off unintended leaving children in a precarious situation, but the much more common scenario is they simply lose air. The air cells are made out of a material that's not much different from a dollar store beach ball. And like any beach ball that's been played with too much, sometimes they'll just start leaking air. This is a situation I've seen a few times. Children will be bobbing around in the deep end and they'll start listing sideways. Each pair of wings requires full inflation of BOTH wings to keep a body afloat. It is very common to see one wing begin to lose air causing children to start going sideways. At some critical point, the wing can become so deflated that a child's head goes underwater.

Combining the carefree attitude of water wings as quasi-life jackets with the cheap construction that leads to deflation is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all times.

As for individuals who claim this is an effective way to teach swimming under adult supervision, my opinion is that there are more effective ways to teach swimming. The water wings not only encourage an inefficient position in the water but also restrict arm movement thereby limiting the ability to learn effectively. Adult supervision in swim lessons is always a must but when it comes to aids, sticking to kick boards, fins and other time-tested tools will go much further and be much safer.

My name is Matt Cullen and I am the founder of Essential Family Safety. My background includes years of experience as a lifeguard instructor and head lifeguard in multiple aquatic environments. Please visit for more great information on how you can keep your family safe.

Source: EzineArticles
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Learning To Swim

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