A large photo on the front page of Thursday’s Carroll County Times showcased a young girl jumping from the side of the pool into her waiting mother’s arms. They appeared to be having a great time on the unofficial opening day of summer — the day after the last day of school — as did numerous other young swimmers we photographed to go with an informational story about the county’s various pools.
Contrast those images with what was going on at about the same time in Anne Arundel County. According to the Capital Gazette, a 2-year-old drowned Wednesday afternoon in a backyard pool incident. The toddler had been playing on the pool deck at a home in Glen Burnie while a family member was nearby, the Capital Gazette reported, citing Anne Arundel County police. After being discovered facedown in the pool, the child was pulled out and rushed by emergency responders to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A child drowning is every parent’s worst nightmare. And drownings occur far too often — about 10 drowning deaths occur every day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4. It’s also estimated that as many as 20 percent of near-drowning victims suffer some sort of severe, permanent neurological disability, according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.
Wednesday’s tragedy was the first residential pool drowning of the summer in that county, according to an Anne Arundel County fire company spokesman, but not the first drowning of the season there. Last month, a 76-year-old Annapolis man went overboard from a sailboat and drowned in the South River and a 4-year-old drowned in a paved stream in Glen Burnie within days of each other, the Capital Gazette reported, and two weeks ago a 27-year-old Annapolis man died after jumping into a creek.
Swimming is the nation’s fourth-most popular recreational activity and it ranks first among those 7 to 17 years old, according to the CDC, for a total of some 300 million swimming visits per year in the United States. In addition to the many public and private pools, there are more than 10 million residential pools throughout the country, according to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. Of those 4 years old and younger who drown, 60 percent do so in pools.
So, what can we do to protect our children and ourselves? The Carroll County Health Department has links to CDC recommendations on its website.
- Be on the look out. When kids are in or near water (including bathtubs), closely supervise them at all times. Because drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.
- Fence it off. Install a four–sided isolation fence, with self–closing and self–latching gates, around backyard swimming pools. This can help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool.
- Make life jackets a must. Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
- Learn life-saving skills. Everyone should know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For CPR training, visit redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr to find an upcoming class.
So go swimming. Enjoy the signature recreational activity of the summer — at the ocean, in your backyard pool or at one of the seven pools we wrote about Thursday. Just keep safety in mind at all times.