While summer fun often brings to mind images of swimsuits and pool toys, remember that pool time can be dangerous for unsupervised children. You probably have heard at least one story, if not many, about a child drowning while her guardian was just performing one quick task, but did you know that drowning:
- is silent
- is quick
- only requires a little bit of water
- causes brain damage (if survived)
- usually claims young children
- usually happens in a pool (for young children)
When you picture someone drowning, you probably picture someone flailing about and screaming for help. This is not an accurate picture. When fighting for an intake of air instead of water, the victim’s focus will be on regaining breath and will therefore not be able to speak, both for lack of breath and for focus. This is true for children and adults alike. You should not expect to be able to hear flailing or splashing, either.
A small child will asphyxiate in only a few minutes. Death can occur in less than five minutes for anyone. Note that this time frame includes how long the victim is able to hold their breath; most adults can hold their breath for a few minutes. Once out of breath, death will follow within seconds.
All that it takes for a drowning to occur is enough water to cover the mouth and nose. This can mean just a few inches of water in a bucket or bathtub.
As the death is due to asphyxiation, even if the victim survives, major brain damage can still occur. Cutting off air from the brain causes damage to the brain. Only two minutes underwater are required for brain damage to begin, even for older victims. The damage that can occur from a near-drowning often requires hospitalization.
Thirty percent of young children, ages one to four, who died by accidental injury died by drowning. More than half of these young children did so in a pool.
Tragedy can be avoided if simple safety precautions are followed. The number one way to stay safe, however, is to pay attention. Keep a close eye on children, do not let them around pools unsupervised, and when in doubt, ask if a potential victim is okay. When safety comes first, disaster can’t intrude on summertime fun.