In the United States, drowning continues to be the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 claiming the lives of roughly 1,100 children in 2006¹. Those at greatest risk for water accidents or drowning includes this group and teenage boys. Summer also presents greater risk for water accidents as children are in pools, lakes and rivers more often and with larger groups of people.
There are many ways to prevent water accidents, primarily never letting a child out of your sight and securing water areas with greater depth greater than 2 inches. By following a list of common guidelines, water accidents can be prevented:
- Secure all standing water areas with greater than 2 inches depth with a barrier/fence. Fence pools with a childproof latch and keep fence gates closed at all times.
- Enroll all children in swimming and water safety lessons prior to 1 years old and beyond. Swim lessons should review water safety training including how to find a pool edge and climb out.
- Do not trust that a child who can swim adequately in a non-distressed situation will respond the same under distress. Children who are competent swimmers, especially under the age of 5, are still in danger of drowning. A child can panic and forget to swim, panic and swallow excess water and choke, or simply fall in and have an injury that prevents adequate swimming.
- Watch children at all times in water settings, and never assume another adult is watching the child unless you have verbally confirmed with another that they are to be watching the child at all times. A lapse in adult supervision is the “single, most important” factor in child drowning deaths, according to the World Health Organization².
- Drowning can occur in 1 min and 30 seconds. A child can inhale water leaving their lungs unable to breathe in mere seconds. If there are multiple children in the water at the same time, make sure to count heads and look for kids every minute.
- Stay close. Most water accidents happen within yards of the adult supervisor.
While it is a very hard subject to read or review, it is immensely important for parents and adults in contact or in a supervising position of children in, around, or near water to be vigilantly aware of the dangers of water accidents for children. Water accidents are tragic in that they are almost always preventable, happen very quickly, and are often due to unintentional negligence in supervision.
For additional information, there are several swimming schools and private instructors that can teach water safety and CPR to adults and children, as well as a protocol to follow in the event of an accident.
Shannon Sinsheimer, ND, is a state licensed naturopathic doctor with a focus on fertility, family wellness, and pre-conception health and can be reached at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert (760) 568.2598.
References: 1) American Academy of Pediatrics. 5/24/2010. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/AAP-Gives-Updated-Advice-on-Drowning-Prevention.aspx; 2) The Today Show 6/6/2013. https://www.today.com/health/drowning-often-quick-silent-how-spot-someone-trouble-6C10223428