Water Safety

Where Children Drown?

Each year, approximately 1,500 children under the age of 20 drown. A new national study published in the July issue of Pediatrics is the first to examine where drownings most commonly take place.

The study concludes that infants are most likely to drown in bathtubs, toddlers most likely to drown in swimming pools, and older children and adolescents are most likely to drown in freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes or ponds.

Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, John Hopkins University School of Public Health, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau reviewed more than 1,400 death certificates from 1995. All of the death certificates were for children under the age of 20 who drowned.

“While freshwater poses the greatest risk for teens, and swimming pools pose the greatest risk for toddlers,” said the study’s lead author Ruth Brenner, MD, MPH, FAAP, “that is not the whole story. It’s important to note that about one-quarter of drownings among toddlers are in other freshwater sites, such as ponds or lakes. Also, after the age of 5 years, a third of the drownings among black males are in swimming pools.

Researchers found that after the age of 10, the risk of drowning in a swimming pool was up to 15 times greater among black males as compared to white males. The reason for this increased risk is unknown. Because black males were more likely than white males to drown in public swimming pools, one explanation offered by the study’s authors was that public pools in which black teens swim might be less safe, with fewer life guards and more crowded conditions. Or the increased risk could be attributed to a different swimming ability, resulting from fewer opportunities for black males to participate in swimming lessons.

The study authors conclude there is a need for a multifaceted approach to drowning prevention. The authors cited the following American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations:

  • Children 5 years of age and older should be taught to swim
  • Constant supervision of infants and young children when they are in the bathtub or around other bodies of water
  • Installation of fencing that separates homes from residential pools
  • Use of personal flotation devices when riding in a boat or playing near a river, lake or ocean
  • Teaching children never to swim alone or without adult supervision
  • Teaching adolescents the dangers of drugs and alcohol consumption during aquatic activities
  • Stressing the need for parents and teens to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

This study was published in Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Heavy or continuous rains can create dangers for children

When we think of water safety and drowning, most of us probably think of swimming pools. But drowning and other water related incidents can occur in many other places.

Rivers, streams, lakes, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines and large buckets are areas that children can get in trouble in – in just a matter of minutes.

During the early spring, heavy, continuous and sudden rains can also turn some unsuspecting places into areas where children may not recognize the danger. Drainage ditches, culverts and small creeks can suddenly become raging rivers of water with enough force to sweep young children off of their feet and into raging waters. The force of the moving water can also over power many adults.

Take the time now to talk with your child about the dangers of playing in these areas during and after heavy or continuous rainfall.

  • Know where you children are playing.
  • Teach children to stay away from storm drains and culverts.
  • Teach children not to walk through standing or moving water. They do not know how strong the current may be or how deep the water may have become.
  • Do not allow children to ride bikes, scooters or skateboards through flooded areas.
  • Report unsupervised children playing in or around hazardous areas to local emergency officials via 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
  • Set the example and do not drive through flooded areas or swift moving areas of water.
  • Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional deaths to children between the ages of 1 and 14 in Missouri.