POSTED: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 8:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — As swimming pools across the country prepare to open for the season, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has a warning for parents.
A new report from the CPSC shows drownings are the number one cause of accidental death in kids under age 5, claiming roughly 400 lives per year.
Trained lifeguards know a swimmer in trouble isn't likely to have the energy to yell for help, and
vigilant guards aren't always around.
"So many children die unnecessarily because they're not supervised. And most children younger than 5 die in a residential pool in someone's backyard," explains the CPSC's Inez Tenenbaum.
5,00 thousand more end up in the hospital, many with brain damage.
Some are more at risk than others.
An African American child is five times more likely to drown than a white child.
According to USA Swimming a majority of African American and Hispanic children do not know how to swim.
The CPSSC and American Red Cross are calling for greater access to public pools and swimming lessons in urban areas.
Experts say parents, too, need to learn more about water safety.
Two-thirds of parents in the Red Cross survey mistakenly assumed water wings and other floaties are enough to keep kids safe when an adult isn't watching.
"Any inflatables such as the water wings or the rings can be fun toys, but they should never been relied upon for safety," says the Red Cross' Connie Harvey.
The Red Cross says the first thing you should do if you see a swimmer in trouble is to yell for help, then throw a rope or life preserver to the person.
Experts advise against jumping in the water yourself.