The Drowning Risk Parents of Kids with Long Hair Need to Know About

girl hair pool
(Photo: Getty Images)

Add a safe hair style to your list of summer safety tips.

The Telegraph reported on a terrifying incident that took place over Easter about a six-year-old girl, Darcey, who was trapped underwater for two minutes in a hotel swimming pool after her hair became entangled in the filter. Once the child was pulled from the water, she was given CPR, which ultimately saved her life.

“This was the worst day of our lives,” Darcey’s mother, Alex Morgan, posted on Facebook. “We are still suffering to come to terms with it all now but also feel incredibly lucky to still have our beautiful, brave little girl.”

However, this is not the first story of hair entrapment due to a drain in a pool or spa. In 2016, the New York Post covered the scene of a near-drowning that took place at a crowded hydrotherapy pool at a spa in Queens where a six-year-old girl’s hair was caught in a jet and kept her pinned underwater for a few minutes. Again, CPR revived this child, who was described as being “blue and unresponsive.”

And in 2014, a 12-year-old girl nearly lost her life in a hotel hot tub located in Newton, Kansas when either her hair or the strap from her bathing suit held her underwater. Her sister called 911 and the child was rushed to the hospital, stated KNSW-TV.

According to a 2017 report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 17 circulation entrapment incidents involving pools, spas, and whirlpool bathtubs between 2012 and 2016. Hair entrapment was the cause of 24 percent (or 4) of the accidents.

So while the occurrences may be rare, long hair is considered a safety hazard when entering a pool or hot tub.

“Yes, it’s easy for long hair, as well as limbs, jewelry, or pieces of a bathing suit, to become entangled in a swimming pool filter or drain, which is why children should always be taught to stay away from drains,” Elizabeth Klinefelter, Pool Safely Campaign Leader, which is part of the CPSC, tells Yahoo Beauty.

She stresses that hair should be tied back while swimming in a pool or hot tub. “Another important safety tip is that while using a spa, always locate the emergency vacuum shutoff before getting in the water,” says Klinefelter. “This emergency vacuum shutoff stops the suction in the spa, freeing whoever or whatever is stuck in it.”

Also, it’s vital to make sure that pools and spas—whether in your backyard or ones you visit in public—have compliant drain covers.

“What does that mean?” asks Klinefelter. “Virginia Graeme Baker, after whom the Pool and Spa Safety Act is named, died in 2002 from drowning due to a suction entrapment from a faulty drain cover. Powerful suction from a pool or spa drain can even trap an adult. As a result of the law, all public pools and spas must now have drain grates or covers that meet safety standards to avoid incidents like the one that took Graeme’s life.”

And since this law has been in effect, “there have been zero drain entrapment deaths in a public pool or spa,” she states.

Klinefelter adds that the CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign—the federal government’s drowning prevention program that exists through the Pool and Spa Safety Act— strongly recommends that children do not play or swim near drains or suction outlets, especially in spas and shallow pools. “And parents and caregivers should never allow their children to enter a pool or spa that has a loose, broken, or missing drain cover,” she continues.

In addition, parents should always practice simple water safety steps when spending time around water. “Supervision is key,” emphasizes Klinefelter. “Designate an adult ‘Water Watcher’ to supervise children in and around the pool at all times.”

Also, along with teaching children how to swim, it’s imperative to learn how to perform CPR. “It can be lifesaving in a drowning incident.”

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