Drowning tragedies unfortunately happen all too often in the United States:
> Each year, nationwide, about 300 children under 5 years old drown in swimming pools, usually a pool owned by their family.
> Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children between ages 1 and 4.
> Most victims were being supervised by one or both parents. Forty-six percent of the victims were not expected to be outside and, in fact, were last seen in the house.
> Sixty-Five percent of childhood drowning incidents happened in a pool owned by the child’s family.
> Child drowning is a silent death. There’s no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
That last point deserves an explanation:
The Instinctive Drowning Response — so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) — of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to take these precautions when their young ones are near a swimming pool:
- Designating a ‘water watcher.’ His or her job is to watch all children and adolescents swimming or playing in or NEAR water―such as on a backyard swing set―even if they know how to swim. This person should:
- Have the skills, knowledge, and ability to recognize and rescue a swimmer in trouble or is able to immediately alert someone nearby who has that capability.
- Not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Know CPR
- Have a floating and/or reaching object that can be used in a rescue
- Life jackets: Put your child in a properly fitted US Coast Guard approved life jacket when around or near water, such as when visiting a home with a pool.
- Swim lessons. The AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older. Children over age 1 may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in infants younger than 1 year of age.
- CPR training. Parents, caregivers, and pool owners should know CPR and how to get emergency help. Keep equipment approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, such as life preservers and life jackets at poolside.
- Check the water first. If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
- Spread the word. Share this article on social media and with family, friends, and neighbors.
The AAP advises that everyone understands these standard Pool Rules:
- Keep toys away from the pool when the pool is not in use.
- Empty blow-up pools after each use.
- No tricycles or other riding toys at poolside.
- No electrical appliances near the pool.
- No diving in a pool that is not deep enough.
- No running on the pool deck.
To prevent serious and permanent spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and possible death, insist on these diving rules:
- Check how deep the water is. Enter the water feet first, especially when going in for the first time.
- Never dive into above-ground pools; they are usually not deep enough.
- Never dive into the shallow end of a pool.
- Never dive through inner tubes or other pool toys.
- Learn how to dive properly by taking classes.
All bodies of water, not just swimming pools, are potential hazards for everyone — children and adults. We’ll take a look at other precautions parents should take when their kids are playing around water tomorrow on The PediaBlog.