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Drowning Prevention

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Definition: Childhood drowning and near-drowning can occur in a number of settings -- pools, hot tubs, beaches, lakes, bathtubs, and buckets. Activities such as boating, jet skiing, water skiing, sailing, and surfing are also associated with water-related injuries and fatalities. Most drowning incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub. It can take only a couple of seconds for a child to drown, and drowning typically occurs when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision.

Magnitude of the Problem: According to Safe Kids, in 2008:

  • Approximately 745 children aged 14 and under drowned.
  • Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury fatalities among youth ages 14 and under.
  • Boys are twice as likely to drown as girls.
  • Children ages 4 and under account for 65% of drowning deaths.
  • African-Americans are at higher risk for drowning -- African-American children age 5-9 are 3 times more likely to drown in swimming pools than Caucasian children.

Prevention: Laws and regulations enacted to address water safety often concentrate on swimming pool regulations and personal flotation device mandates. For example, the Virginia Graeme Baker Act requires anti-entrapment drain covers on pools and spas. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, at least 12 states have laws related to swimming pool safety, which may include: certified lifeguards on duty, fences, alarms, safety covers, light fixture requirements, and safe spa and pool drain standards.

Environmental protections (e.g., isolation pool fences and lifeguards) can protect children and youth from drowning. Other strategies include teaching children proper techniques for survival swimming; communicating to parents and caregivers the importance of closely supervising children who are engaged in water activities; emphasizing the necessity of wearing life jackets while boating; educating individuals about avoiding alcohol while participating in water activities; and providing training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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