By: Dr. Vasudha Mahajan – Pediatrician at Preferred Medical Group
It’s officially summer! And while that means lots of time spent under the sun, at the beach, and by the pool, this is also the time of the year when children are at the highest risk of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared May 23rd Drowning Prevention Advocacy Day, so here are some facts and tips to help you learn about how serious the threat is and what you can do to prevent it.
It may surprise you to know that drowning can happen silently in just a few seconds. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to take all the appropriate measures to prevent this terrible outcome for the children in your life.
“In 2018 there were 2077 drownings with 336 of these were children younger than 5 years of age.”
Sadly, drowning continues to be a major cause of death among children. Some of who survive the incident are at a risk for suffering from prolonged neurological consequences especially if the submersion time is greater than 5 minutes.
Fact: Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children aged 1-4 years.
Toddlers are naturally curious and like to explore. Most drowning incidents happen when toddlers are not expected to be around swimming pools or other bodies of water.
Fact: Adolescents are the second largest group at risk of drowning.
Teenagers are prone to exhibit risk-seeking behavior which can cause them to over-estimate their abilities in the water. Even for skilled swimmers, oceans, lakes, and streams are where the largest number of teenage drownings occur. Combining alcohol with water activities impairs reflexes and judgment and increases the risk of harm significantly.
Please don’t let this happen to a child that you love! Take the steps below to keep kids safe around water this summer.
What You Can Do
Drowning among infants, toddlers, and adolescents differs in terms of where and how it takes place. Here are some of the common measures you can take to reduce the risk of drowning among all age groups:
- Preventing unsupervised access to an open body of water, swimming pools, bath tubs, and wading pools remains the most important measure anyone can take. Pool fences are the most effective method to prevent drowning. You can find details about the specifics of the pool fencing at this link.
Door and fence alarms, toilet and bathroom door locks, and weighted pool covers are some of the additional interventions that you should consider after a fence has already been installed.
- All children near a body of water should be supervised by an adult at all times. This means the adult is responsible for constantly watching the children—being off their phone/electronics and not under the influence of alcohol.
If the child is just learning to swim, being at an arms-length in the water with them is recommended in order to be able to keep their head out of the water in case of submersion.
- Swimming lessons starting at one year of age have been shown to be beneficial in preventing drowning. Swimming should be taught by a qualified and experienced instructor. However, it is important for parents to understand that swimming does not make their child “drown proof”. It is just one of the skills recommended to decrease the risk and make them better equipped to enjoy water activities safely.
Children younger than one year of age may show “reflex” swimming techniques but are unable to coordinate breathing and raising their heads above water. While getting them used to the water during splash and play time is acceptable, but swimming lessons are NOT recommended in this age group.
- For Infants: Stay with your child constantly during bath time. Don’t let them out of your sight for even a second! Children can drown even in a few inches of water in less than a minute. All the water left over the bath should be emptied as soon as bath time is over.
- Life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast guard and appropriate for the age and size of the children should be warn in water and while on boats. Younger children should wear life jackets in swimming pools, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics says: “Parents should not use air-filled swimming aids (such as inflatable arm bands, neck rings, or “floaties”) in place of life jackets. These aids can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.”
- The risk for drowning increases significantly for children with epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias, and those on the autism spectrum. Talk to your pediatrician about recommendations on water safety and swim lessons for each child.
- LEARN CPR!! Infant and child CPR is a skill that all parents should have—you never know when you need to save a life! In cases of drowning, the quicker CPR is started, the better the outcome. There are training classes for CPR offered by physician offices and training centers. There are also videos available online on AAP.org and the American Heart Association (aha.org) for infant and children CPR training.
Lastly, it is very important to identify the signs of drowning. It is not as dramatic (or noisy) as shown on television. Children can drown silently and in a matter of seconds. Most of the time, children are unable to splash or wave for help. I recommend this article by Mario Vittone on how to identify someone who is drowning.
Have fun and stay safe in the water this summer!
Preferred Medical Group is currently accepting new pediatric patients at our offices in Columbus / Phenix City, Fort Mitchell, and Opelika. In addition to sick and wellness visits, we offer Behavioral Health counselling and ADHD assessments for children. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly or schedule your next visit through our convenient online appointment system.