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Study: Swimming Lessons Don’t Increase Drowning Risk

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Enrolling young children in swimming lessons doesn’t increase their risk of drowning. The results of a new study published in the March 2009 issues of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine might dispel concerns among some health professionals that swimming lessons could actually increase drowning risk by making parents and caregivers less vigilant when young children are in and around water.

Government researchers looked at data on drowning involving children ages one to 19 years old and compared them with a control group of children who didn’t drown. Of the 61 children ages one to four who drowned, three percent had received swimming lessons, compared with 26 percent of the same age in the control group.

“From our calculation, we are confident that swimming lessons do not increase drowning risk in this age group and likely have a protective effect,” the study’s first author, Dr. Ruth A. Brenner, of the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a government news release.

Though they can help, swimming lessons alone aren’t enough to fully protect children from drowning.

“In our study, many of the children who drowned, particularly in the older age group, were relatively skilled swimmers,” Brenner and her colleagues noted in their study. ” Parents and caregivers who choose to enroll their children in swimming lessons should be cautioned that this alone will not prevent drowning and that even the most proficient swimmers can drown.”

Swimming lessons should be part of a complete prevention program that includes fencing for pools, appropriate adult supervision, and parent and caregiver training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the researchers concluded.

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