6 Easy Tips to Keep Your Child From Drowning June 22, 2010

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The temperatures are rising and more Central Texas families are visiting area pools, rivers and lakes. This popular summer activity has physicians at Dell Children's Medical Center, a member of the Seton Family of Hospitals concerned as child drowning incidents have increased.

Each year, more than 830 children, ages 14 and under, die as a result of unintentional drowning in the United States. As of June 21, Dell Children's emergency department treated 17 children involved in near-drowning incidents this year; two of those children have died. In 2009 Dell Children's saw 39 near-drowning patients; five of those patients died. A total of 43 near-drowning incidents occurred in 2008 with six out of 43 children dying.

"We are just one day into summer, and already we have seen one too many children drown," said Dr. Pat Crocker, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Dell Children's. "Children can drown in as little as one inch of water and it can happen in a matter of seconds. These incidents can be prevented with proper supervision in and around water."

According to Dr. Crocker, proper supervision around water is 'touch supervision,' meaning a parent is close enough to reach out to their child at all times. Parents also should avoid distractions such as talking on cell phones or reading, and avoid using alcohol while supervising their children around water. At parties, adds Dr. Crocker, hosts should assign parents to take turns watching the water never assume that someone else is taking care of it.

Central Texas drownings can occur anywhere water is present. That includes bathtubs; hot tubs; pools in homes, hotels or apartments; community pools or sports clubs; waterparks; rivers; and lakes.

Consider these facts concerning drowning from Safe Kids Austin:

Safe Kids Austin, a community coalition for child safety led by Dell Children's, suggests these tips for water safety this summer:

  • Always supervise children in and around water. Never allow them to be near water alone.
  • Children should not be expected to supervise each other around water. Parents should be present at all times.
  • Teach young children how to swim.
  • Inflatable toys, like water wings, cannot be relied upon to keep children afloat.
  • Install four-sided isolation fencing at least 5 feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, around home swimming pools.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a telephone and emergency numbers by the pool.

"It only takes a few seconds for child to slip under the water. Don't let your child become a statistic," warns Dr. Crocker. "Many people think their child will scream for help, but in reality they just slip under the water, frequently unnoticed, and drown. It happens in seconds."

Frequently Asked Questions

GoodHealth.com has published information on water safety. Dell Children's Trauma Department Injury Prevention Program compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers to assist Central Texas parents.

How much time does it take to drown?

In the time it takes to...

  • Cross a room for a towel (10 sec), a child can become submerged
  • Answer the phone (2 min), a child will loose consciousness
  • Sign for a package at the front door (4-6 min), a child submerged in a tub or pool will sustain permanent brain damage or die

How much water does it take to drown?

  • Inches of water in a bathtub
  • A bucket of water
  • Standing water on top of a pool or spa cover
  • Any amount of water that covers the mouth & nose

Do people always yell for help?

  • Most children do not yell for help.
  • Non-swimmers or exhausted swimmers are unable to call for help .
  • Drowning victims may be struggling under the water.

What is a near drowning?

  • Near drowning is survival after submersion in fluid.
  • For each child that drowns, it is estimated that 4 children are hospitalized for near-drowning.
  • Nationwide, 2700 children ages 14 & under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional drowning-related incidents.
  • As many as 20% of near drowning survivors suffer severe permanent neurological disability.
  • Nearly all who require CPR die or are left with severe brain injury.

Where are most kids in danger of drowning?

  • Home Pools/Spas/Ponds
  • Inside Homes (Tubs, toilets, buckets of water)
  • Natural Bodies of Water
  • Boating & Personal Water Craft

Are pools dangerous?

  • More than half of drownings among children ages 1-4 are pool related.
  • More than half of these drownings occur in the childs home pool.
  • Most children were last seen in the home and had missing from sight for less than 5 minutes.

What are the dangers inside the home?

  • More than half of drowning among infants under age 1 occur in bathtubs.
  • Nationwide between 1996-1999, 459 Children Under 5 years old drowned in the home
    • 292 in Bathtubs
    • 28 in 5-Gallon Bucket
    • 55 in Spas & Hot Tubs
    • 16 in Toilets
    • 38 in Other Products

What are the dangers while boating?

  • Most boating accidents are caused by the operator.
  • Drownings usually occur when boaters unexpectedly end up in the water.
  • Most drownings happen to people in boats who dont wear personal flotation devices.
  • Alcohol use is a contributing factor in nearly 50% of adolescent drowning.

(Center for Disease Control)

Are personal watercraft (a.k.a., Jet Skis) dangerous?

  • In 2002, more than 189 children ages 14 and under sustained personal water craft related injuries in the US.
  • Fatality rates for PWC accidents far exceed those for motor boats.
    • 361 fatalities: 8 million boats (1 in 22,000)
    • 68 fatalities: 500,000 PWCs (1 in 7300)

    (U.S. Coast Guard)
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