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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Concerned in California," regarding her fears about her child drowning while visiting relatives who have unprotected swimming pools, prompted me to write. Her fears are well founded. You were on target telling her that her sister and ex-husband were ignorant about child safety.

As mothers -- and emergency flight nurses with 30 years of combined experience -- we can testify that any unfenced pool in the vicinity of any child is a prescription for tragedy. It does not matter that a child knows how to swim. "Swimmers" drown every day.

Statistics collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission paint a frightening picture of childhood drownings and swimming pools:

-- 77 percent of the drowned children had been seen five minutes or less before being missed, and subsequently discovered in the pool.

-- 69 percent of the accidents occurred while one or both parents were responsible for supervision.

-- 65 percent of the accidents happened in a pool owned by the child's family.

-- 39 percent of the supervisors were doing chores.

-- 18 percent were socializing.

-- 9 percent were busy on the telephone.

Thank you, Abby, for letting us share this information. -- MICHELLE WILT, RN, KATHLEEN O'BRIEN, RN, ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.

DEAR MICHELLE AND KATHLEEN: I hope your sobering statistics will serve as a warning to parents, relatives and caregivers of children everywhere, especially those in warm climates where swimming pools are common.

And thank you for sending me the following list of "Drowning Prevention Tips for Pool Owners," published by the National Network of Trauma Professionals. Read on:

1. Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area for any reason.

2. Always keep your eyes on the child or children. Designate a child watcher, whether you or someone else, when you attend a party or have friends or family over.

3. Talk with baby sitters about pool safety and supervision.

4. Post rules such as "No running," "No pushing," "No dunking" and "Never swim alone." Enforce the rules.

5. Don't rely on swimming lessons or "floaties" to protect your children in the water.

6. Don't assume that drowning or a drowning incident couldn't happen to you or your family.

7. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because you think your pool area and home are secure. Always watch your children, whether in the house or outside.

8. Attend a CPR class. Make sure your baby sitter knows CPR.

9. For the nearest cardiopulmonary resuscitation class, contact your fire department, Red Cross or hospital.

10. Encourage your neighbors to follow pool safety guidelines, including keeping their back gates and doors locked, and their pool gates securely closed and latched.

DEAR ABBY: You may relate to this. You realize you're getting old when you notice a nice-looking, gray-haired man and realize that he's probably young enough to be your son. -- HELEN FOWLER, ASHEVILLE, N.C.

DEAR HELEN: Right! Or you notice that touch-ups have gotten expensive.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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