Q. What can parents teach young children to help avoid an accidental death by drowning?
A. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and most children younger than 4 drown in backyard swimming pools, according to the Arizona-based U.S. Swim School Association. In addition to supervising children, teaching them to swim starting as young as 6 months and having pool fences or barriers around pools, the association adds these tips:
* Create a verbal cue for your toddler or child that must be given by you before he or she can enter the pool, so that he or she doesn't jump in before you're ready. Tell the child to wait for you to say a phrase such as, "Ready, 1, 2, 3. You can come in now," says Bobby Hazen, a co-owner of Saf-T-Swim, with 12 locations on Long Island.
* Create a process children must go through before entering a pool, such as putting on a swim diaper, a swimsuit and applying sunscreen. If your child doesn't know how to swim, make sure he or she is always wearing a U.S. Coast-Guard-approved life vest. This teaches them not to go near the water if they aren't prepared for it, Hazen says.
* Teach your children to open their eyes under water; if they fall in, they can find the side of the pool or a step and get out safely.
* Teach a child that an adult "water-watcher" must always be with him or her at the pool. The adult should be watching at all times, Hazen says -- not on a cellphone or a computer, not chatting with friends and certainly not drinking alcohol.
To find a local, USSSA-affiliated swim school, visit usswimschools.org.