The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were 3,443 unintentional drownings in the United States in 2007, an average of 10 deaths per day.
More than one in five drowning victims are children 14 and younger.
Most drownings, especially involving children, are quick and quiet. Generally, there’s no splashing or flailing. People nearby may never notice that something is wrong.
But even if someone in danger is pulled from the water and survives, there can be serious side effects from what we call “near-drownings.”
Complicated near-drownings involve resuscitation efforts at the scene. Survival typically depends on the length of immersion, the temperature of the water and the person’s overall health. It also depends on the effectiveness of bystander CPR.
Anyone who needs resuscitation after a near-drowning should receive emergency medical care. It takes a while to clear water from the lungs and re-establish adequate circulation and should be done under medical supervision.
Use these tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:
• Make sure to stay within “touch-supervision,” or an arm’s length away, from children around any kind of water: pools, bathtubs, even a bucket of water or a toilet.
• Install a four-sided fence at least four feet high around a home pool. The fence should have a self-latching gate and a lock where small children can’t reach.
• Keep a life preserver by the pool and make sure there’s a telephone close by.
• Never leave a toy in or around the pool.
• Swimming lessons are recommended for children 1-4 years old, but are not a guarantee of safety. Neither are inflatable swimming aids, or “floaties,” which can give children a false sense of security.
• Finally, all caregivers should learn CPR.
Jordan Bonomo, MD, is an expert in emergency medicine, neurosurgery and neurocritical care. He is a member of the UC department of emergency medicine, whose physicians staff the emergency room at West Chester Medical Center.