Avoiding the Risks of Accidental Drowning

The beginning of summer also means the beginning of pool season and vacations which increase the risks of accidental drowning. Approximately ten people die per day in a drowning accident in the United States, twenty percent of which are children under fourteen. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in this under-fourteen age group, behind motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, for each child who dies from drowning, another receives emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries. These non-fatal injuries can cause severe brain damage and long term disabilities ranging from memory problems to a permanent vegetative state. Overall, drowning ranks as the fifth leading cause of accidental death in America.

The NCIPC notes that the factors common to drowning risk include:

  • The lack of supervision or barriers.
  • Natural water settings particularly those with no lifeguards available.
  • Failure to wear life jackets while engaged in recreational boating – 90 percent of drowning victims in boating accidents did not have on a life jacket.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Seizure disorders.

So what can you do to keep your summer enjoyable and safe this year? Here are some tips from the CDC:

  • Make sure that a responsible adult is designated to supervise young children in the bath or when playing in or around water. Preschools children should be within reach at all times. Drowning occurs quickly and quietly. The supervising adult should not be engaged in any other activity such as playing cards, talking on the phone or similar distractive activities, even when lifeguards are present.
  • Use the buddy system – don’t swim alone, selecting areas with lifeguards when possible.
  • Individuals with seizure disorders require one-on-one supervision when around water and when bathing.
  • Teach your children to swim, and erect barriers around unsupervised areas. The ability to swim however does not lessen the requirement of supervision for younger children.
  • Learn CPR. It could save someone’s life during the time that it takes for emergency personnel to arrive.
  • Wear life jackets. Air filled devices like water wings and foam toys like “noodles,” are not safety devices, and should never be substituted for life jackets. It is estimated that half of all boating deaths could be prevented with the use of life jackets.
  • Avoid alcohol while swimming, boating or when supervising swimmers. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol is involved in seventy percent of water recreation deaths, one quarter of drowning related emergency room visits and roughly one in five boating deaths.
  • Always check the weather before heading out to swim or boat.
  • Make sure home swimming pools are fenced, locked and cleared of toys or attractions, which may tempt a young child.

As summer is heating up, remember that a day of cool relaxation could end up in tragedy. Have fun, but stay safe.