How to Keep Children Safe Around Water and Prevent Drowning

Two years in the past, I wrote about methods to stop drowning deaths in younger youngsters, particularly within the two age teams the place these deaths spike, the toddlers and the adolescents. It’s a perennial subject for many who write about youngsters’s well being, as a result of drowning is such a significant threat for each these ages — the main preventable reason for demise in youngsters from 1 to four, and then once more in adolescents, particularly boys, the place it’s the second-most-common reason for preventable deaths from 15 to 19, after automotive accidents.

That makes drowning a security difficulty that’s essential to overview every and each summer time, when seashore and pool and swimming season comes round, although water security activists would level out that the majority of these toddler deaths don’t truly happen whereas swimming, so there are year-round security considerations as properly. Still, the beginning of summer time, particularly after this unusual lockdown yr, makes for a very good second to overview water security.

When I wrote that column in 2019, I spoke with two moms who had turn out to be water security activists after dropping youngsters to drowning. One was Nicole Hughes, a writing trainer in Bristol, Tenn., whose son, Levi, had been three years outdated when he drowned in a swimming pool at a trip house, and who has labored with the American Academy of Pediatrics on water security. The different was Dana Gage, whose son, Connor, had drowned in a lake in Texas on the age of 15, and who based the LV Project in Connor’s reminiscence to give attention to open water and life jackets.

Both of them, like consultants throughout the nation, name for a layered method to water security, together with fences round swimming pools; shut, fixed and succesful grownup supervision; swimming classes; CPR coaching for fogeys and caregivers; and Coast-Guard-approved life vests.

I might urge you to learn that authentic article and hear their tales in additional element, however I used to be additionally curious to hear their ideas now, as we transfer into the summer time of 2021, wanting again at a yr like no different.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not but launched information on drowning charges for the entire nation for 2020, however there have been considerations final summer time that drowning charges in a number of states may be greater than normal. Ms. Hughes pointed to the various households who purchased swimming pools throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but in addition to the extra stresses on dad and mom who had been making an attempt to work at home, and to supervise older youngsters who had been studying remotely.

“Toddlers are slipping out unnoticed, reaching the pool more than ever now,” Ms. Hughes mentioned. “The layers of protection really need to be in place.” She has heard tales, she mentioned, about youngsters who drowned the primary time they ever climbed out of their cribs, or whereas households had been unloading their groceries.

“It is during the non-swim time when everybody’s loading the car to start the vacation trip,” she mentioned. “When everybody’s watching the kid, then nobody’s watching,” mentioned Ms. Hughes, whose son escaped from a room that contained 12 adults, six of whom had been physicians. “Without realizing it, subconsciously you’re letting your guard down when there’s a bunch of people around.”

The important messages haven’t modified; dad and mom want to pay attention to the hazard, and they want to perceive that this could occur in any household; that babies can transfer in a short time, and that the majority house drownings — 70 p.c — happen exterior of “swim time.” So the layers of safety for toddlers and babies embrace that supervision, but in addition four-sided fences round swimming pools, deadbolts on any door that leads to the water, latches positioned up excessive that solely an grownup can attain.

As youngsters become older, the patterns change, however drowning stays a significant threat. And crucial messages for older youngsters contain swimming classes with water security competence as a vital life ability to be taught to all youngsters; there are notable disparities in entry to swimming classes, and drowning charges are greater in minority populations. Adult supervision and by no means swimming alone are nonetheless important, in addition to Coast-Guard-approved life jackets, even for robust swimmers. Anyone concerned in actions on water the place there’s a present (tubing on a river, for instance) needs to be carrying a type of life vests.

“So few people are aware that drowning is a big-kid problem too,” mentioned Ms. Gage, who’s a member of Families United to Prevent Drowning, which makes many household tales accessible. “When an older person drowns, it’s typically in open water, and typically there’s a lot of victim blaming.” People search for an evidence that entails reckless conduct, she mentioned, or intoxication. In reality, she mentioned, dad and mom want to perceive the significance of continuous to mannequin protected conduct as their youngsters become older. “Wear life vests, just as you don’t get into a car without a seatbelt,” she mentioned. “Just because your child knows how to swim does not mean your child is drown-proof.”

The threat of drowning will increase enormously amongst youngsters, particularly boys, and stays elevated into maturity, and could also be tied to risk-taking behaviors. Ms. Gage mentioned that the one legal guidelines that regulate life vests are related to boating — so individuals have a tendency to assume that there’s no want for all times vests in different open water actions. And older youngsters have additionally been affected by the circumstances of the Covid yr, she mentioned, with boat gross sales having elevated and, once more, with dad and mom profoundly confused and generally much less in a position to supervise.

Ms. Hughes mentioned that many dad and mom who’ve been keen to take excessive precautions all yr to keep away from any probability of their youngsters being uncovered to Covid won’t understand that statistically, drowning kills extra younger youngsters — in 2019, 864 youngsters 18 and underneath within the United States died by drowning, in contrast to about 300 pediatric deaths from Covid over the course of the pandemic.

Ms. Hughes mentioned she worries that oldsters encourage youngsters to imagine that water is enjoyable. And she mentioned it’s not sufficient to merely warn them in regards to the dangers. Since I spoke along with her two years in the past, she has turn out to be a robust believer within the worth of swimming classes for younger youngsters.

Some “swim classes” for teenagers could in actual fact depend on flotation gadgets, or on having youngsters swim from one grownup to one other — which gained’t essentially assist if no grownup is there, Ms. Hughes mentioned. And these classes could convey solely the message that water is enjoyable, she mentioned, with out the attendant warning that it may also be lethal. In an electronic mail, she wrote, “When parents are trying to find a swim provider, especially for the age group most at risk (1 to 4), the most important question they should ask the swim instructor is: ‘Will these lessons teach my child how to get to the surface and get oxygen independently?’”

I additionally checked again with Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, who’s the medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Oregon, and who was one of many authors of the American Academy of Pediatrics coverage assertion on drowning prevention, asking, amongst different issues, whether or not there was new analysis accessible on profitable methods for conserving youngsters protected. He is wanting ahead to outcomes from a research in Florida that may take a look at the effectiveness of lessons for kids from three to 7 years outdated that particularly train water survival abilities past customary swimming classes, however this analysis is simply getting underway.

With babies, he was anxious in regards to the proliferation of yard swimming pools over the previous yr, when many group swimming pools had been closed due to Covid-19 — and about all the kids who missed what would have been a yr of swimming classes final summer time. But it wasn’t solely swimming pools that had been dangerous throughout the pandemic; in Oregon, he mentioned, “families sought out lakes and rivers last summer,” the place there weren’t lifeguards. This summer time, he mentioned, the protecting layer of lifeguards could also be again once more.

“If you’re going to have standing water at home, have constant, close, capable adult supervision when kids are in the water,” and be certain they’ll’t get to the water when the supervision isn’t there, he mentioned. “Coast Guard-approved life jackets are a good idea for anyone on or in open water,” he mentioned. Kids who grew up swimming in swimming pools could also be unprepared for the unpredictable nature of swimming in rivers, lakes or oceans, he mentioned.