Childhood drowning is often referred to as the silent killer. Children often slip silently under the surface without a sound. Unfortunately, the facts supporting a need for greater water safety awareness seem to slip silently under the surface as well. As unpleasant as the facts may be, they demonstrate the need for a new attitude toward water safety. Parents must do more to protect their children. Preparation should begin prior to the arrival of your newborn baby and all safety measures must be in place before your child begins to crawl.
CHILDHOOD DROWNING FACTS
- Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14. It is the leading cause of accidental injury-related deaths among children ages 1 to 4.
- Children under age 5 account for 80 percent of all home drowning incidents. They have a drowning death rate more than three times greater than other age groups.
- Each year, approximately 300 children under age 5 drown in residential pools. More than 50 percent of these residential pool drownings occur in the child’s home pool while roughly 35 percent occur at the home of neighbors, friends or family.
- Most children who drown were last seen in the home or away from the pool area. They were in the care of one or both parents and were missing from sight for five minutes or less.
- Nearly 90 percent of drowning-related deaths occur while the child is being supervised.
- Since 1980, spas and hot tubs have claimed the lives of more than 230 children under age 5.
- Children can drown in a very small amount of water. Since 1984, more than 327 children have drowned in buckets containing water or other liquids used for household chores. Children between 7 months and 15 months account for nearly 90 percent of these drownings. Bathtubs, wading pools, toilets, and buckets all pose a serious drowning danger.
- The drowning rate for male children is more than twice that of female children. Female children, however, have a bathtub drowning rate more than two times that of male children.
- More than 10 percent of all childhood drownings occur in bathtubs. Absence of adult supervision is sited in the majority of these incidents.
- Annually, approximately 4200 children under age 15 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for accidental drowning-related incidents. Nearly 20 percent of those who survive a near-drowning incident suffer severe, permanent brain injuries.
PREVENTING CHILDHOOD DROWNING
While there is no single way to prevent all childhood drownings, prevention in the form of protection, supervision, and education can help ensure children’s safety in and around water. Each facet is designed to overlap the others and therefore adds to a higher level of overall safety.
Secure your swimming environment with multiple barriers.
- Install pool and spa covers. Motorized systems may be more expensive, however, they secure the pool and spa with just the flip of a switch. A difficult and time-consuming cover is less likely to be secured after every swim.
- Install pool and spa alarms. The alarm sounds when anyone enters the water.
- Install isolation fencing with self-closing and self-latching gates. The fence must be at least 5 feet high and designed in a way that prevents direct access from the house or yard. Four-sided isolation fencing, with proper use, could prevent 50 to 90 percent of childhood residential swimming pool drowning and near-drowning incidents.
- Any door, window or gate leading to the pool and spa area must have a lock. The locks should be located out of the reach of children.
- Install door and window alarms. They add additional protection in the event a locked door or window leading to the pool and spa is breached.
- Empty bathtubs, wading pools, and buckets immediately after each use. Install locking devices on all toilets.
Proper supervision is paramount.
- Never allow a child in or around water unsupervised. This includes bathtubs and wading pools.
- Never allow children to swim without adult supervision.
- Always designate a responsible adult to supervise. Their sole responsibility is to constantly monitor the children in or near the water.
- Supervisors should always remain at waterside. This allows them to remain in constant visual contact and allows them to intervene if an emergency arises.
- Distractions, such as talking on the phone, reading, socializing or preparing food will limit the supervisor’s ability to effectively supervise. Constant vigilance must be maintained by the designated supervisor.
- Enroll children in swimming lessons by age 8. Make sure the lessons are taught by a certified instructor and include water survival techniques training, such as treading water and survival floating.
- Parents, older siblings and caregivers should learn CPR. Remember, adults can drown too so learn adult CPR as well as infant and child CPR.
- Educate children about water safety and potential water dangers.
With minimal cost and a few changes in habits, you can prevent drowning. We, as parents, have the responsibility to take every measure necessary to ensure the safety of our children.