The tragedy of young children drowning in swimming pools is alarmingly common. What are the situations that lead to these drownings? A recent study, “Patterns of Drowning Among Young Children examined Orange County, CA, coroner data between 2000 and 2007 to find out exactly what happened prior to these events in the hope of creating advice on preventing future drownings.
“In California, drownings are the leading cause of deaths for toddlers,” said Dr. Phyllis Agran, lead author of the study and a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.
Some patterns emerged, based on the data:
•1- to 2-year-old children were last seen in the home, with a parent or caregiver who was distracted by other children or activities, or where the daily routine had been changed.
•1- to 2-year-old children were seen outside, with neglectful supervision.
•3 to-4-year-old children were seen in or near the water before the drowning event.
Dr. Agran cautions against situations that leave children vulnerable and unsupervised. “Most of the 1- to 2-year-olds were able to access the pool without the adult supervisor realizing it. That’s why pool fencing is critical,” she said. “Any home pool should have a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate in good condition, which is never left open. If possible parents should not have a home with a swimming pool in the yard until the child is older than 5 years.
“When in the pool or playing outside around the pool, hands-on supervision is necessary,” Dr. Agran said. “Older children who drown were more often outside with inadequate supervision.”
Dr. Agran also said that parents may overestimate their child’s abilities to be safe around water. Teaching children water safety and to swim will help to reduce risk.
However, Dr. Agran stressed that parent should not assume that providing swimming lessons to young children makes them drowning-proof.
“Parents may choose to enroll their toddlers in swimming if they are developmentally ready, she said. “However, swim lessons is not a guarantee against drowning. All children should eventually learn to swim. However, there are no adequate skills that can be relied upon at all times to prevent drowning. Good swimmers drown."
For more specific advice, read Keeping kids safe around pools and Layers of protection for pool safety.
See our buying advice (free) and Ratings (available to subscribers) for a wide range of products for babies and kids.
Find us on Facebook and Twitter.