Teaching tots to swim may save lives

March 4, 2009 1:54:54 PM PST
The benefits of swim lessons for babies had long been debated. New research suggests they may really be worth the effort. Nearly 7,000 American children drown each year and very young children are particularly at risk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons only for children older than 5.

But new research in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine may change some minds.

The families of 88 children who drowned were interviewed, as were more than 200 other families whose children had a close call but survived. Among children ages 1 to 4, just 2 percent who drowned had received swimming lessons. That compares with 26 percent who were still alive.

Experts say learning even basic water skills such as floating or paddling for a few feet may help save a child's life.