It can happen in an instant. You’re enjoying the sun at your local pool, or relaxing on family vacation by the ocean. You take your eyes off your child to read a couple lines in your book, reply to a text, or to reapply sunscreen. Then tragedy strikes. A child or a weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to do any of these activities.
Drowning incidents (death and/or injury) mostly happen in residential swimming pools; however, all it takes is one inch of water for heartbreak to strike. Buckets, bathtubs, wading pools, hot tubs, and even toilets pose a potential threat to the safety of your young children.
In addition to at home threats, open waters such as lakes, rivers, and oceans pose a drowning threat to older children as well. Most children who survive water submersion without brain damage are discovered within two minutes; 10 minutes is all it takes to lose a loved one forever.
As parents, caregivers, grandparents, and the like, what can we do to protect our kids, avoid risks, and respond appropriately in an emergency?
First, let’s look at the facts:
- In the U.S. drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children younger than four and teens.
- Emergency room care is typically needed for non-fatal drowning injuries with half requiring extended hospital stays.
- Surviving a drowning can leave someone with severe brain damage – 5%-10% of childhood drowning cases result in long-term disability.
How kids drown varies by age:
- < 1: babies most often drown in bathtubs, toilets, and buckets.
- 1-4: young kids often drown in swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.
- 5+, teens, and young adults: drowning incidents in these age groups are most likely to happen in natural bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers.
Despite the risks of drowning, drowning injuries and deaths are 100% preventable. So how do we keep our kids safe?
Supervision is KEY. Supervision of your children around any type of water is an absolute must. This is true if your child is by a wading pool, fish pond, swimming pool, ocean, or lake. Age and swimming skill level are not an exception to this rule.
Swimming lessons. Swimming lessons are an important part of water safety. Training can reduce the risk of drowning and teach important lessons in water survival, flotation, and basic swimming. As a parent, if you do not know how to swim, it is highly recommended you take lessons as well.
You can search for instructors by visiting the YMCA or Red Cross websites.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). PFDs are helpful, but should never be used in place of swimming lessons or as a permanent solution for protection.
Diving. Don’t allow your child to dive in water less than nine feet deep. The probability of a traumatic neck injury increases exponentially in shallow waters.
Responding appropriately in an emergency situation can sometimes be the deciding factor between life and death. Surviving a drowning incident depends on a quick and efficient rescue and restarting breathing as quickly as possible. So what should you do in a water related emergency?
Learning CPR is a must. CPR is a life-saving skill that can be useful in a variety of emergency situations.
If a child is missing: always check the pool or other body of water first. Survival is dependent on a quick rescue and restarting breathing as soon as possible.
If you find a child in the water: call loudly for help while getting the child out of water. If someone is nearby, give them a direct and clear order to call 911. Check to make sure the child’s air passage is clear. If the child is not breathing, start CPR if you are trained to do so. If you are not, follow the prompts given by the 911 operator.
If injury occurs from diving: keep the child on their back. Brace the neck and shoulders with your hands and forearms to keep the neck from moving about. Doing this can help prevent further injury to the neck and spine. It’s important to keep the child as still as possible and to speak in soft calming tones to keep the child comforted.
Summertime swimming is supposed to be fun and carefree – and it can be! We just need to make sure we stay alert, are prepared, and have the tools necessary to help us in the event of an emergency.
Information from this article was gathered from The American Red Cross and John Hopkins University.