This article is aimed at giving you advice for a happy, safe holiday with kids on, in and around water in Malta this summer. Do take a moment to browse down. We’re rather like the flight attendant reminding you to listen to those safety instructions even if you’re a frequent flyer (or swimmer… in our case)!
Holidays are for relaxation, and nowhere more so than in Malta which promotes itself on its relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. However, as parents we can’t really relax when water and kids mix because…
Swimming pools pose the greatest risk of death and injury to children in a home or holiday setting. More British children drown on holiday abroad than in Britain itself, most of them in swimming pools. And if you take recent statistics from Algarve (Spain) and Greece, most drownings of young children are in pools, not the sea, despite the unpredictability of the sea and the crowds that beaches pull.
There is good news in all this though – research shows that most swimming pool drownings are preventable.
Swimming Pools & the Law
In 2008, a new European Union standard relating to the design and operation of swimming pools came into effect. It is a standard only, but both France and Spain have introduced laws based on it, and backed by hefty fines, to protect youngsters in both private and public pools. French law states that all privately-owned swimming pools should be equipped with a safety fence and gate with a self closing latch. This is not the case in Malta.
If you are renting a house with pool in Malta or Gozo this summer, do ask about pool safety equipment such as fences and gates if you have young children and are at all worried. Also, check about non-slip surfaces and ask if filters, reservoirs or infinity pools have sufficient safety barriers in place. Be aware that some houses for summer rentals have pools up close to the premises, or even fitted into courtyards; perhaps you can lock doors though this is rarely practical in summer heat.
Just be prepared to be vigilant. After all, however many safety devices are in place, accidents can happen so don’t rely 100% on anything other than your own eyes and presence of mind. If you really want to relax on holiday, swim with the kids!
Seaside / Poolside Safety Tips
Things to consider:
• Fencing round pools to avoid kids inadvertently wandering off to the swimming pool without adult supervision.
• Alarms that ring by the pool and in your house, as soon as wave action is detected, are also a good option.
• Another alternative is pool covers or shelters, though be aware that covers can hold enough water on top to pose a threat to toddlers.
• Be aware also of hidden dangers from drain or suction entrapments. Drains with broken, missing or faulty covers can entrap hair, the body, limbs, jewellery and clothing, or cause disembowelment/evisceration.
• Slippery surfaces. Nasty accidents can be avoided by wearing rubber swimming shoes, usually made out of wet-suit material. These can also protect little feet from sharp rocks and pebbles, sea urchins and other hazards by the sea.
• Swim Aids: armbands should be worn by young children at all times when in close proximity to pools or by the seaside. Modern versions are now available which do not have to be inflated. These swimming discs are quick and easy to put on, give your child better posture and more confidence in the water, and most importantly don’t puncture, so you have a lot less to worry about.
• Shade by the pool and even more so by the sea, is paramount in avoiding sunburn. Sea salt and sand mean sun block does not last as long at the beach, but these days you can find UV tents from most kids’ related outlets or online, which give the whole family a safe way to enjoy the sun.
• At the beach, avoid rough or choppy water. Be careful with inflatable boats and lilos, which can quickly and easily drift out to sea. Check the weather and the likelihood of jellyfish, before you head out.
• Have a medical or first aid kit with you to deal with jellyfish stings and accidents.
• Always have an adult present when kids are swimming. At gatherings, it is particularly important to appoint a strong swimmer to supervise kids by the pool or sea, to ensure there is a responsible adult watching at all times.
For more information on pool fencing in Malta, see: protectachildmalta.com
Photo: Anne Muscat Scerri.