Mum warns of 'scary' pool mistake Aussie parents are making

Aware that visible swimwear saves children's lives, parents say there's a lack of safe colours available at leading retailers.

When buying a swimsuit for kids, Aussie parents might not immediately think about how its colour may mean the difference between life and death.

Advice given to parents is to find bright, neon-coloured swimsuits that contrast the colour of the water so children are easily spotted — especially if something goes wrong.

This is exactly what Gold Coast mum Carissa McHolme was told in a CPR class she and her husband took while she was pregnant. They emphasised, "the importance of swimwear colours", she told Yahoo News Australia.

Child disappears while swimming in pool. Source: CPR Kids
A child disappears from view while swimming in pool. Source: CPR Kids

But, when shopping at leading retailers for a swimsuit for her three-month-old son, Carissa was frustrated when she saw they weren't selling babies' swimwear in the safe colours — particularly in the boys' section.

"I didn't think it'd be hard to find... [but] they only had blue and green fish designs [for boys]," she told Yahoo.

What are the safest colours for kids to wear in the water?

ALIVE Solutions, a US company that provides water safety education and resources, tested different coloured swimsuits to find out which provided the best visibility in pools and in open water.

They found that neon pink and neon orange are the most visible two colours for swimming pools, and neon yellow and neon orange are the most visible in open water — making neon orange the overall winner for the safest, most visible colour.

Swim suit colour test results in a pool. Source: ALIVE Solutions
Swim suit colour test results in a pool. Source: ALIVE Solutions

They also discovered that neon green was more visible in open water, though other types of green were not. White was one of the worst performing colours, with Carissa describing the visibility of white suits submerged in water as "scary".

Swim suit colour test results in open water. Source: ALIVE Solutions
Swim suit colour test results in open water. Source: ALIVE Solutions

Light-blue coloured swimsuits also ranked as on of the least visible colours.

CPR Kids reiterated this result in 2021, when they shared a photo of a child wearing a light-blue swimsuit swimming to the bottom of a pool — only the child had disappeared from view.

Mum disappointed by selection at leading retailers

Despite the advice and findings, and the increased risk posed to children swimming in certain colours, Carissa said leading retailers like Cotton On Kids, Target, and Kmart appear to prioritise blues and greens in the boys' sections.

She said when looking online, it's difficult to find swimsuits for babies and young children in the safest colour, neon orange. "We wanted to get our son familiar with the water as soon as possible because we live near the water," Carissa said.

At three months when he was ready to start swimming lessons, Carissa searched through Kmart and Target and could not find a single swimsuit for her son that was safe to use.

With babies growing so quickly and the current cost-of-living crisis, ordering expensive swimsuits for them online is not always an option for families. Instead they look to larger, accessible retailers like Big W or Kmart.

Target and Kmart responded to inquiries from Yahoo News regarding their swimwear colours, indicating they believe their current selection allows parents to safely dress children and provide adequate visibility in water and pools. Big W declined to comment when asked about the variety of colours on offer at its stores.

Majority of drownings happen in summer

Drowning peaks significantly in summer. Of all hospital admissions due to drowning and submersion 51 per cent occur in summer, with 0-4 year olds making up the largest portion of those, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

As the weather heats up and jumping in the water becomes more enticing, keeping children safe through water safe practices is key to having a fun, safe summer.

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