Protecting Children from Drowning

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I don’t know about anyone else, but recently, I have been reading about a lot of tragic stories involving drowning deaths of small children. I have a 3 year old daughter and I had no idea that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in children ages 1 to 4 years old. The statistics are both grim and heart-wrenching.

How Common is Drowning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another 5 receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Even nonfatal drowning injuries can have devastating impacts on children. Drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long term disabilities and permanent loss of brain function.

How do Drowning Incidents Occur?

Children can drown in as little as an inch or two of water. However, statistics reveal that among children ages 1 to 4 years old, most drownings occur in home swimming pools. According to a recent article, nearly half of child drownings happen within 25 yards of an adult. This is an extremely disturbing fact.

It is also important to be aware that not all drownings occur when children are actively swimming in a pool. Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller and his wife, Morgan Beck, recently lost their 19 month old daughter, Emeline, when she wandered away from them at a neighbor’s house and fell in their pool. Tragic stories like theirs have helped to raise awareness of the dangers of unattended pools and hot tubs that do not have proper safeguards that prevent little ones from falling in.

How Can You Prevent Drowning?

The good news is that these types of drowning deaths are 100% preventable. One of the main risk factors for child drownings is a lack of barriers such as pool fencing that would prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without an adult’s awareness. It is so important to make sure that swimming pools are properly safeguarded when not being used. The CDC recommends that a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard be installed. The fence should be at least four feet high and have self-closing and self-latching gates that are out of children’s reach. They also recommend removing all floats, balls, and other toys from the pool and surrounding area so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.

Of course, swimming skills can help reduce the risk of drowning in children. However, swimming lessons can never replace constant and careful adult supervision when children are in or around water. Even if you do not have a pool at home, children can be exposed to water while on vacation or at a friend or family member’s home. It is important to always be aware of your child’s surroundings and ensure that they are well-supervised in those situations. A common theme heard from grieving parents in this situation is that a drowning can happen in a matter of seconds. For more facts and information on how to prevent unintentional drownings, visit the CDC’s website.