Keeping Children Safe in the Water – MSR News Online | Start Classified

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Drowning Prevention 101

It was a bright summer day. Four-year-old Dante and his parents were at his aunt’s apartment building for his cousin’s birthday. The birthday party was held in the party room and the children all had a great time in the swimming pool.

Dante was wearing his floaties and had been splashing in the shallow end with his older cousins. He undressed her to use the bathroom. As everyone gathered in the party room to cut the cake, Dante’s mother noticed that it was missing.

Five minutes later he was seen at the bottom of the pool. He was pulseless and unresponsive when pulled out. His uncle started CPR. 911 was called and when paramedics arrived they placed a breathing tube, an IV and continued CPR.

They took him to the children’s hospital. After about 30 minutes of CPR, he had a pulse. He was then admitted to the intensive care unit.

Unfortunately, Dante’s story is all too commonplace. According to the CDC, there are an estimated 3,960 fatal, accidental drownings, including boating-related drownings, in the United States each year. That’s an average of 11 drowning deaths a day.

There were also 8,080 non-fatal drownings. For every child who dies from drowning, an additional eight children receive care in the emergency room if death by drowning does not occur.

What is drowning?

Drowning is the process of compromised airways by submersion or immersion in a liquid. Fatal drowning occurs when drowning results in death. Nonfatal drowning occurs when a person survives a drowning incident with a range of outcomes from no injuries to very serious injury or permanent disability.

According to the CDC, children ages 1–4 years have the highest rates of drowning. Most of these children’s drownings occur in swimming pools. Drowning can happen at any time, even if children are not expected to be near water, e.g. B. when they are allowed unsupervised access to pools, ponds or other bodies of water.

Certain factors make drowning more likely:

  • Can’t swim. Many adults and children report that they cannot swim or are poor swimmers.
  • Missing or ineffective fences around water. Barriers such as pool fences prevent young children from entering the pool area without the knowledge of the supervisors.
  • Lack of close supervision. Wherever there is water, drowning can occur quickly and silently, especially in the case of unsupervised children. It happens in lakes and oceans, pools, bathtubs and even buckets of water. Even with lifeguards present, drowning can occur.
  • Do not wear life jackets. The US Coast Guard reported 613 boating-related fatalities in 2019. Of these deaths, 79% were due to drowning, and of those who died from drowning, 86% were not wearing life jackets.
  • Taking medications and certain prescription drugs can increase the risk of drowning.
  • Drink alcohol. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use accounts for up to 70% of aquatic deaths, nearly one in four drowning visits to the emergency department, and approximately one in five reported boating deaths.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, autism, and heart disease, are also associated with a higher risk of drowning.

place of drowning

The places of highest risk for drowning vary by age. Two-thirds of all drownings in infants under the age of one year are in bathtubs. Most drownings occur in children between the ages of one and four in private swimming pools. More than half of fatal and non-fatal drownings in people aged 15 and over occur in natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers or oceans.

drown and run

According to the CDC, African American and Native American children are more likely to drown than white children. In swimming pools, black children ages 10 to 14 drown at a rate 7.6 times higher than white children.

Black children and youth are more likely to drown in public pools and white children and youth are more likely to drown in residential pools. In natural water, Native Americans or Alaskan Natives have the highest mortality rates from drowning, with rates 2.7 times higher than whites.

These differences have a historical and current context rooted in systemic racism. The historical denial of access to public pools, the current shortage of community pools in marginalized communities, and the costs associated with swimming lessons are some reasons why these disparities persist.

drowning prevention

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point to several ways to prevent death from drowning. These include:
  • To teach school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills. Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% for 1-4 year olds who take formal swimming lessons. Parents can seek swimming lessons at their local YMCAs or YWCAs. Many communities also offer swimming lessons for children and adults. USA Swimming also has a list of swimming programs available on their website. The AAP recommends starting swimming lessons when children are older than 1 year.
  • Ensuring equal access to swimming pools and expanding access to swimming pools in communities and schools serving underage children. Sports centers like the planned water sports center V3 Sports in North Minneapolis will hopefully make swimming even more accessible.
  • Raise public awareness of drowning and highlight children’s vulnerabilities.
  • Special attention is required near open water such as lakes, rivers and the ocean. The water here is usually much colder and there are often currents and waves that make swimming difficult.
  • Ensuring close adult supervision when children are near water. The AAP and Safe Kids Worldwide recommend employing an aquatic observer — an adult who provides constant attention to children in the water. Close supervision is required at all times when children are in or near water (including bath tubs). Drowning happens quickly and quietly, so adults watching children in or near water should avoid distracting activities such as playing cards, reading books, using the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.
  • Placing four-sided isolation fences with self-closing and self-locking gates around backyard swimming pools can help keep children out of the area when they are not supposed to be swimming.
  • learn CPR. These lessons can help save a life.
  • Ensure children wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water such as lakes or the sea. Life jackets can prevent drowning during water activities, especially boating and swimming. Life jackets can be used in and around pools, even for weaker swimmers.

Swimming is a fun activity and sport that can and should be safely enjoyed by all. We should work towards a society where all children have the opportunity to learn how to be safe in the water

dr Kiragu is a member of the Children’s Respiratory and Critical Care Specialist’s Group and provides pediatric critical care at the Children’s of Minnesota. dr Kiragu is a passionate advocate for children and past president of the MN chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and past president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians. He is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.

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