The 4 Best Kid’s Life Jackets For Water Safety
“When your child is playing in or near water, on boats or docks, they should be wearing a life jacket,” advises Erin Summa, CPH, who works at the Center for Childhood Safety at the Tacoma, Washington-based Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. But the best kid’s life jacket is only helpful because it actually works — so you’ll first want to look for one that has been certified and rated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), which Summa points out is “a sign that the product is a legitimate personal floatation device.” The USCG’s rating also tells you if the jacket is suitable for children in general and for the specific activity (and water conditions) that your child will be involved with, so you can be sure you’re on the right track. In addition, you’ll want to choose a life jacket that’s appropriate for your child’s weight and any other measurements the manufacturer uses for sizing.
The USCG has five different life jackets, and while Types I, II, and III are approved for children, only Types II and III are currently available to the public. According to Megan Ferraro, Executive Director at The ZAC Foundation, which works to improve water safety, Type II life jackets “are specifically designed for supervised activities where swimmers are on calm or inland waters,” and most general boating activities where “a quick rescue is likely.” According to the USCG, Type II life jackets are intended to turn an unconscious person face up. That said, Type III life jackets are usually the most comfortable to wear, since they tend to be less bulky, allowing for the most freedom of movement. Summa suggest that these life jackets are best for instances where “there is a chance for quick rescue” and only in calm, inland (rather than open) water. As detailed by the USCG, these life jackets are intended to support a conscious person in the water in an upright position, but aren’t intended to turn an unconscious person face up.
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