Whether fatal or not, all drowning and near-drowning incidents are preventable. In an effort to reduce child drowning and near-drowning, a recent analysis of the number of children treated in emergency departments for near-drowning incidents emphasizes the need for better water safety practices in Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Health tracks near-drowning incidents that are reported by emergency departments throughout Ohio on a daily basis. The data shows a clear seasonal trend in near-drowning incidents from May through August in Ohio.
Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7 percent of all injury-related deaths according to the World Health Organization factsheets. Children, males and individuals with increased access to water are most at risk of drowning.
Children can drown in water anywhere. Young children, aged 1 to 9, are at greater risk of drowning in swimming pools while older youth, aged 10 to 19, are at greater risk of drowning in natural bodies of water and drowning is the second leading cause of death in children aged 0-4 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Males are especially at risk of drowning, with twice the overall mortality rate of females. Studies suggest that the higher drowning rates among males are due to increased exposure to water and riskier behavior such as swimming alone, drinking alcohol before swimming alone and boating.
Increased access to water is another risk factor for drowning. Individuals with occupations such as commercial fishing are more prone to drowning and children who live near open water, such as ponds, ditches, or pools are especially at risk.
For yours and your family’s health and wellness, practice the ABCs of water safety:
A = Adult supervision
Supervise children at all times around bathtubs, swimming pools, ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water. Partner with other parents to take turns watching children at swimming pools. Never swim alone. Always have a buddy with you when you swim.
B = Barriers around pools, spas and hot tubs
Pool fences with self-closing and self-latching gates can keep children away from backyard swimming pools when an adult cannot supervise them. Door alarms, pool alarms, and automatic pool covers can add additional protection when used properly, but should not replace a fence and good supervision.
C = Classes; swim lessons and lifesaving CPR classes
Begin teaching children to swim early. Experts suggest starting swimming lessons after age 4. Remember, though, that water safety programs for infants and young children are not a substitute for good supervision. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and get recertified every two years. Immediate CPR can help an individual stay alive and reduce the chance of brain damage.
Remember to install anti-entrapment drain covers and safety vacuum release systems to avoid entrapment in pools and spas. Additionally, make sure children wear life jackets (personal flotation devices) in and around lakes, rivers and ponds, even if they know how to swim. For more information on water safety, please visit: www.odh.ohio.gov.
Kathy Husek is the Epidemiologist at the Madison County-London City Health District. She can be reached at (740) 852-3065.