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Drowning Is Silent!

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Happy holiday weekend! Summer is well under way and with temperatures heating up, many families will create memories and cool down at the beach, lake, or pool. The first thing that comes to my mind (when I think of water) is safety!!  Knowing that over 900 children between the ages of 1–14 die each year from drowning, the discussion of water safety is a necessary part of summer routines. Astoundingly, reports show that 9 out of 10 of those children who drowned were “under supervision”.

The American Academy has endorsed allowing children between the ages of 1-4 to take swimming lessons. It was previously thought that encouraging swimming lessons for children under the age of 4 years might actually contribute to increased drowning.   In fact, recent studies have suggested that children ages 1–4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.

The AAP has not gone so far as to routinely recommend mandatory swimming lessons for this age group, but does endorse swimming lessons in younger children who are frequently exposed to water and are emotionally and physically able to participate.  The AAP does not recommend formal “infant survival swimming lessons” for children under the age of 1 year.

When I discuss water safety with my patients, I emphasize that drowning continues to be the second leading cause of death for children ages 1–19.  I often have interesting discussions with parents who have a backyard pool who do not believe that it is necessary to have a barrier around the pool. They will say, “we never let our child outside alone” or “he or she is always being supervised by an adult”.

As you might expect, these are usually first time parents who have yet to experience the cunningness of a toddler.  Just as our children watch us and learn how to feed themselves, or drink from a cup or climb out of a bed, they too watch us open a door, or take a stool out to reach something. A toddler is more than capable or figuring out how to reach a door handle even with a lock, or climb out a window to go outside and head straight for the pool.

Drowning is SILENT!!  It is not like the movies with screaming and yelling. The child quietly goes beneath the water and sinks.  It only takes minutes and the consequences of drowning are devastating.  Even for a child who is found and resuscitated there may be a life-long brain injury and the worst case scenario, death.

All families with a pool should install a 4 sided fence that is at least 4 feet high to limit pool access. It must be difficult to climb and have a self-latching, self-closing gate. The arguments I hear about “landscape aesthetics” fall on deaf ears.  Every family should also know CPR.

Sign your child up for swimming lessons, and have fun practicing flutter kicks and arm strokes. Just do it with an adult within arm’s reach of all new and novice swimmers and a fence around the pool!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow!

Related Posts on www.kidsdr.com

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