Fatal drownings involving children down; officials continue to stress water safety

Photo by FamVeld / iStock / Getty Images Plus; St. George News

ST. GEORGE – While the number of fatal drownings in pools involving children is estimated to be significantly down since 2010, according to a recent report, drowning is still the leading cause of unintentional death among children 1–4 years old. A recent incident in St. George that could’ve turned out much worse highlights the need for increased awareness.

With Memorial Day weekend marking the traditional start of the summer swim season, parents and others are asked to be mindful of swimming safety, particularly where young children are concerned.

A new report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Tuesday shows that the number of reported fatal child drownings in swimming pools involving children younger than 5 – the most vulnerable population – has decreased 17 percent nationwide since 2010.

pool safety tips
Stock image, St. George News

Despite the decrease, fatal and near-fatal child drownings in pools and spas continue to pose a public health challenge across the United States, according to the CPSC report.

“Despite the positive decline in numbers, there are still far too many children who drown each year in pools and spas across the country,” Ann Marie Buerkle, CPSC acting chairman, said Tuesday.

“Swimming should be fun and a great way for families to be active, so long as everyone knows how to use the pool safely,” Buerkle said. “Constant supervision, along with four-sided fencing, knowing how to perform CPR and teaching children how to swim are all important steps to continuing the decline in child drownings.”

Close to home

Earlier this week a 2-year-old boy fell into a swimming pool at his home, St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley said Wednesday.

It is unknown how long he was in the water,” she said. “The initial report indicated he was not breathing but he started breathing while the mother was on the phone with dispatch. Prior to medical transport he was crying and responsive. He was transported to (Dixie Regional Medical Center) for evaluation.”

No additional details were provided concerning this particular incident. However, many incidents involving toddlers tend to be connected to what the health department describes as “under-supervision,” such as when there is a family gathering and there is no designated child-watcher, according to the Utah Department of Health website. Others may also think someone else it keeping tabs on the child and not think much of it.

In other cases the child was thought to have been indoors and actually slipped out. This can lead to the child wandering over to a pool or other body of water and falling in.

Drowning can happen even when a child is being supervised,” according to the Health Department website.

“Many people don’t realize that drowning is often silent,” the website states “This means someone who is drowning is not able to shout for help or grab onto something. When they come above water they only have time to inhale and exhale. It is important especially for parents of young children to be able to identify signs of a drowning child.”

Those signs include:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level.
  • Head tilted back with mouth open.
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus or closed.
  • Hair over forehead or eyes.
  • Vertical in water – not using legs.
  • Hyperventilating or gasping.
  • Trying to roll over on the back or trying to swim but not making headway.
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.

Suggested precautions

  • Have a proper fence that secures the pool.
  • Ensure your children know how to swim, either with private or public swimming lessons. It is an inexpensive skill that may save your child’s life or someone else.
  • Don’t assume children who can swim can’t drown. They still need constant supervision.
  • Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
  • At large gatherings, designate one person as the pool watcher so all adults don’t assume someone else is doing it.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first.
  • Don’t allow young children to play near a pool without supervision.
  • Don’t use flotation devices as supervision.
  • Learn and know CPR.
  • Make sure all babysitters are qualified with CPR and pool safety tips.
  • Leave rescue equipment near the pool area, as well as a phone for calling 911 in case of emergency.
  • Remove toys from pool area when not in use. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
  • Never prop open the gate to a pool.
  • Use locking spa covers on pools and hot tubs.

A note on “near-drowning” incidents

A lesser known fact is that near-drowning or secondary drowning victims need immediate medical attention because accumulation of water in lungs – irrespective of the amount – can cause constant fluid accumulation, which is fatal.

Every near-drowning victim should be checked by a healthcare personnel, and this goes for a person who has been revived.

Sometimes, near-drowning victims show symptoms including vomiting, restlessness, confusion, chest ache, pale appearance of the victim, cold skin, bluish skin – mostly around the victim’s lips – abdominal distention, unconsciousness, lack of breathing, lethargy and coughing froth. Other times, they may appear to be breathing fine and show no symptoms at all and then later die.

Time is of the essence in these situations; do not wait. It is crucial to get a near-drowning victim to a medical professional immediately.

Some statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

CPSC’s latest data shows there were 346 reported fatal child drownings in pools and spas in 2014 involving children younger than 15, compared to 397 reported fatal drownings in 2010 — a 13 percent decrease.

Of the 346 reported fatal child drownings in 2014, 252 involved children younger than 5. This is a 17 percent decline when compared to 302 fatal drownings involving children younger than 5 in 2010.

Other key findings include:

Between 2012 and 2014, the majority (77 percent) of reported fatal drowning victims younger than 15 were younger than 5 of which two-thirds (66 percent) were male.

For children younger than 15 years old, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the reported fatal drowning victims were boys.

For 2014 through 2016, an estimated average of 5,900 children younger than 15 years old were reported as being treated in hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal drowning injuries in pools or spas.

Between 2014 and 2016, the majority (74 percent) of children treated in emergency departments for pool- or spa-related, non-fatal drowning injuries were younger than 5 years of age.

Between 2014 and 2016, residential locations made up 86 percent of fatal reported incidents and at least 55 percent of non-fatal reported drowning incidents for children younger than 5.

For more information regarding the prevention of child drownings and drain entrapments in and around pools and spas visit PoolSafely.gov.

St. George News reporter Kimberly Scott contributed to this article.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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