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Summer Drowning Deaths Can Happen Quickly: Know the Facts

HealthDay News
by Cara Murez
Updated: Jul 14th 2021

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WEDNESDAY, July 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The best way to prevent drowning in children and teens is to guard against the danger on multiple fronts, a leading pediatricians' group says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released its "Prevention of Drowning" report online this week, which notes that about 70% of drowning deaths for U.S. children aged 15 and younger occur between May and August.

The report includes the latest research and additional information, such as that male toddlers and teen boys are at the highest risk of drowning, and that half of drownings happen between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., a busy time for swimming and a time when there are distractions, such as dinner preparation.

"Drowning is quick and silent — not at all what people might expect — and it can happen in a bathtub, an inflatable backyard pool or hotel pool, or beach where lifeguards are on duty," said Dr. Sarah Denny, lead author of the report, written by the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.

"Parents may expect to hear a child splashing or crying if they are in trouble in the water, but often that is just not the case," Denny said in an academy news release. "We do have strategies to prevent these tragedies, which include not only close supervision but putting up physical barriers to prevent children's access to water."

To prevent drowning, AAP recommends close, constant, attentive and capable adult supervision at all times when children are in and around water, as well as life jacket use.

Parents and caregivers should prevent unsupervised access to the swimming pool, open water or a bathtub.

Four-sided pool fencing should be at least four-feet tall and have self-closing and self-latching gates that completely isolate the pool from the house and yard.

Water should be emptied from containers, such as pails and buckets, immediately after use.

Never leave an infant alone in a bathtub, even for a minute. Infant bath seats can tip over, and children can slip out of them and drown in even a few inches of water in the bathtub.

To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks may be helpful.

Children should not wear masks in water, the AAP said. Yet, children who are under 12 and too young to be vaccinated for COVID-19 should continue to maintain social distance, wash hands and wear masks when in public.

The AAP also recommends swimming lessons.

"We recommend swim sessions for children beginning around age 1, with the understanding that lessons and swimming skills are essential but are not enough on their own and won't 'drown-proof' a child," said Dr. Linda Quan, who is also an author of the report. "Parents will want to consider if their child is mature enough for swim lessons and talk with their pediatrician if they have any concerns about a child's physical limitations or health."

While drowning rates have decreased steadily since 1985, hundreds of children still die each year in the United States. In 2018 alone, 900 children and teens under age 20 died from drowning and 7,200 were seen at a hospital emergency department for a drowning event.

Most infant drowning deaths occur in bathtubs and large buckets. Teen boys are about 10 times more likely to drown than girls. Children under age 5 who drown often have unexpected, unsupervised access to water, such as in residential pools and spas. Drowning rates are also higher in Black children and American Indian/Alaska Native children. Black children aged 5 to 19 were 5.5 times more likely to drown than white children of the same age, according to the report.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more tips on healthy swimming.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, July 12, 2021