Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, five are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks third among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. For children ages 5 and under, close to 350 drown in residential swimming pools each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States – about 10 deaths per day. Kids drown quickly and quietly; a drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. If a child is missing, always check the pool first – there’s no time to spare.
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive near-drowning may have brain damage; after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.
The most important precaution is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising. Although 94 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – for example, talking, eating, reading or taking care of other children.
To help keep kids safe this pool season, Safe Kids Carroll County recommends these precautions:
· If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least 5 feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 percent to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
· A pool or spa should be equipped with an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught in the suction of the drain. The powerful suction forces can trap a child underwater or cause internal injuries.
· Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
· Taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years, but don’t assume swimming lessons make your child “drown proof.” There is no substitute for active supervision.
· Remember: inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles are not flotation devices and do not prevent drowning.
· Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped.
· Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.
These guidelines apply to inflatable and portable pools, not just in-ground pools. A child can drown in just an inch of water. Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.
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Chloe Sharman is an intern with the Carroll County Health Department.