When people think about unintentional drowning, they most often envision a wayward toddler wandering too close to a family pool and falling in unnoticed by anyone until it is too late. However, the reality of who falls victim to unintentional drowning is very different than this idea.
On average, 10 people die each day from drownings, and only two of these victims are 14 years old or younger. However, that is not to say drowning is not a risk for children; in fact, drowning ranks as the second leading cause of unintentional death in children under 14, behind motor vehicle accidents. Further, for those children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, drowning accounts for 30% of unintentional deaths, with most taking place in home swimming pools.
Those highest at risk are males, accounting for 80% of all drowning victims. However, African American’s have a disproportionately higher risk with those between the ages of 5 and 14 being three times as likely to drown than the same age group of white children.
Across age, gender and race, there are some risk factors that make people more likely to fall victim to drowning. It has been shown that in children ages 1 to 4, swimming lessons can lower the drowning risk. Physical pool barriers can also decrease the risk, with 4-sided fencing shown to decrease it by 83%.
Very close supervision as well as wearing a life jacket can be key as drowning can occur very quickly and quietly. Individuals with a seizure disorder are particularly at risk, with bathtub drowning being the most common cause of unintentional death. Lastly, alcohol use is a huge risk factor for adults and adolescents, accounting for nearly 70% of deaths in water recreation incidents.
In order to safeguard against accidental drowning, there are a few things that can be done. First and foremost, CPR has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes for victims, with the earlier the better when it comes to beginning CPR. Instituting the “buddy system” where no one swims alone, as well as learning to swim, and refraining from alcohol, can all help prevent drowning accidents. For young children, an adult should be explicitly appointed to supervise, with no distractions. Preschoolers and younger should always be within’s reach of the supervising adult and remember that inflatable and foam flotation devices are not a substitute for supervision. Additionally, installing fences around the entire perimeter of the pool and keeping the area around the pool clear of clutter can prevent accidents. For those individuals that suffer from seizures, one-on-one supervision should be provided. When venturing onto the water, whether in a boat or not, make certain to wear a U.S. Coast
Additionally, installing fences around the entire perimeter of the pool and keeping the area around the pool clear of clutter can prevent accidents. For those individuals that suffer from seizures, one-on-one supervision should be provided. When venturing onto the water, whether in a boat or not, make certain to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Lastly, know the expected weather conditions before venturing into the water and watch for rip currents and dangerous waves.