Facts and Safety Tips in and Around Water

Childhood drownings and near-drownings can happen in a matter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision. Two minutes after submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes and determines the immediate and long-term survival of a child.

The Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention state that young children and teens are at greatest risk of drowning. Children under 5 and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest drowning rates. In fact, a swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child under the age 4. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center encourage parents or care providers to use caution when children are around water.

According to Wendy Pomerantz, M.D., M.S., an emergency room physician at Cincinnati Children’s and one of the leading coordinators for the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center, any child is at risk of drowning around water. Children less than 5 years old are more likely to drown in a pool that belongs to a friend or family member. Teenagers are more likely to encounter drowning and near-drownings in lakes and ponds.

Despite a 40 percent decline since 1987, drowning is still the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States in children ages 1 to 14. More than 900 children die each year from a drowning. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized; for every hospital admission, approximately four children are treated in hospital emergency rooms after near drowning incidents.

“Children can drown in even the smallest body of water including toilets, decorative fountains, bath tubs, buckets, etc. Any time you have a standing body of water that is accessible, make sure you supervise your child at all times,” Dr. Pomerantz said.

Dr. Pomerantz also suggests that if your child has a medical illness that can cause a brief loss of consciousness, such as seizures or cardiac arrhythmias, never leave your child unattended in or near a pool or tub at any age.

The statistics for drowning/near drownings between 1999 and 2005 for children 0-19 years old are as follows:
• 193 children suffered injuries due to drowning. Of those, 10.9 percent were less than 1-year-old; 33.2 percent were 1-to-4-years-old; 24.4 percent were between the ages of 5-and-9-years-old; 18.7 percent were 10-14-years-old; and 13 percent of injuries occurred in children 15-19 years-old.
• Of those 193 injured, 11.4 percent died; 46.1 percent were hospitalized and 42.5 percent required emergency room visits.
• Approximately 1/3 of injuries occurred in the home, while 1/4 percent occurred in a sports/recreation environment.
• Most drownings and near drownings occur in the months of June (25.4%) and July (30.6).
• African Americans account for 48.7 percent of the injury rate while 46.6 are white. Some 65.3 victims are male and 34.7 are female.

Teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT mean your child is safe in water. Knowledge is a powerful tool for combating water tragedies. Knowing how and where children drown, as well as the concrete steps you can take to avoid danger, may make a life-and-death difference for your family. To keep your family safe, remember these tips:
• All caregivers should learn CPR.
• Never leave a toy in or around a pool.
• Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency.
• If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, make sure you dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down when finished with it.
• Install a fence at least four-foot high around all four sides of the pool. Pool covers are not a substitute for 4-sided fencing.
• Never leave children alone in or near water, even for a moment. An adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
• Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
• Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook - a long pole with a hook on the end - and life preserver).
• Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
• Teach children to swim when they’re ready, usually after age 4.
• Use a barrier like a fence to keep children away from pools or other bodies of water.
• Empty and turn over all water containers after you use them.
• Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
• Teach children never to swim alone.
• If your child is found floating in water start Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately.
• If your child is missing check surrounding bodies of water immediately.

Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

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