The leading cause of death in children are “unintentional injuries” including drownings. According to the CDC, 20% of drowning victims are under the age of 14. And non-fatal drowning victims could sustain brain damage and long term disability.
Pools, bathtubs and any body of water pose risks, however this time of year is especially dangerous, because activities surrounding pools, such as BBQs and alcohol use, become distractors to the adults supervising.
When it comes to drowning prevention, the following is necessary:
All pools should be enclosed
Fence height should be at least 4-5 feet high and the entry gate should self-close and self-latch.
Even if your pool has a fence, be aware that the house who’s hosting the BBQ, play date, or sleep-over may not.
And any kiddy pools or ice buckets used for drinks should be dumped out after use and flipped over so they do not become a future threat.
All young children should be within arm’s reach of an adult when swimming
The farther you are away from the child you’re supervising, the longer it takes to rescue. With distance between you and the victim, other children may swim in your path and you may lose sight of where the victim submerged. And seconds count. A panicked child under water may also aspirate water into the lungs becoming hypoxic quicker. Moreover they could be at risk of “secondary drowning” in which water in the larynx triggers a spasm closing up the airway, or water falling into the lungs causes pulmonary edema and respiratory failure days after the water incident.
Do not get distracted
Put the phones away. Adults supervising kids in a pool should not be answering a phone call or on social media. Moreover, adults should not be drinking alcohol while supervising a child. Reaction time is key, and a drunk adult could become a drowning victim as well.
Remember that drowning is silent
Many drownings occur while others are feet away from the victim. Why? Because a submerged victim makes little sound and nearby splashing visually and auditorily obscures the victim’s splashes.
Parents have long learned that when children get quiet during playtime, something could be going wrong. Use that same Spidey-sense when they are in the pool.
Learn CPR and water rescue skills
Most CPR classes teach adult, child, and infant CPR. Having this knowledge and becoming certified could save a life one day.
If swimming in open waters, know the weather and sea conditions prior to jumping in. Life jackets/vests, appropriate for the child’s size, should be worn, even if the child is out of the water, such as in a boat.
Have a safe and healthy summer!
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician