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Drowning Prevention: Keeping Kids Safe Around Water

Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children, including infants and toddlers between the ages of 1 to 4 years old.  Drowning refers to death from respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid. When a person is rescued at any time before death, the episode is called a nonfatal drowning.

One inch of water is enough to cause a child to drown. Most infant drownings occur in bathtubs and buckets. Swimming pools are the most common cause of drowning for toddlers between one and four years. However drowning accidents occur commonly in ponds, rivers, and lakes. In some areas of the country, children older than five are most likely to drown in rivers and lakes.

Guidelines for Drowning Prevention

It is estimated that more than 85% of cases of drowning can be prevented by supervision, swimming instruction, technology, regulation, and public education.

There are many steps you can take to help prevent drowning accidents.  It is important to learn swimming and water survival skills.  Encourage others in your family to do the same, especially children.  First aid and CPR training will empower you to be able to more effectively handle a downing situation.

Always try to swim in a group, allowing safety in numbers.  If possible swim where lifeguards are available.  If safety signs and warning flags are present, obey them, they are there to protect you.

Getting in the water after drinking alcohol is dangerous as you have less control of your motor skills and judgment.  It is also important not to overestimate your swimming abilities as you may exhaust yourself.

If children are swimming or are near the water, ensure they have close and constant supervision.  Swimming pools should be fenced in on all 4 sides.  Installing self-closing and self-latching gates will make sure children do not accidentally gain access to the pool without your knowledge.

Know the Warning Signs of Drowning

Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Ronnie Shalev, gives us some physical signs that may indicate someone is drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs — vertical position
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

What To Do in a Drowning Emergency

Remove child from the water immediately.  Check to see if he or she is breathing on their own. If they are not, have someone who has been trained begin CPR immediately.

If another person is present, send them to call 911 for emergency medical assistance.  The moments right after a person stops breathing from water are precious.  If someone is not readily available to help, do not spend time looking for someone to help or making the call yourself.  Concentrate instead on giving the child rescue breathing and CPR until he or she is breathing on their own.

“One thing most people don’t realize is that vomiting swallowed water is very likely during CPR, so it’s usually best to use a t-shirt or other clean material to cover your  mouth as you provide rescue breaths.”

Only when the child’s breathing has resumed should you stop and seek emergency help. Call 911. Once the paramedics arrive, they will administer oxygen and continue CPR on the child if necessary.

Drowning cases can be reduced by educating your family on risks, training them to handle drowning emergencies and properly supervising play around water.