Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Drowning In Infants and Children

Category: Child Care


The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with a committee statement on preventing drowning in infants and children. This summer a four year old child in my own neighborhood took his floaties off and drowned in my neighbor's back yard rubber pool. Fortunately, my neighbor's sister did mouth to mouth breathing and was able to resuscitate him. He was in a coma for almost 24 hours, however. By the grace of God he seems to have made a full recovery. This is a good "wake-up" call to constantly monitor our children in any type of water. Thousands of children drown annually in backyard pools and even in large buckets in which water is left remaining in or around the house. The children with the highest drowning rates are less than 5 years of age. The second highest group are those 15 to 24 years old and their drownings are usually associated with drinking alcohol. Infants under one year most commonly drown in bathtubs and buckets. Infants, one to four years of age most often drown in home pools. Teenagers most commonly drown in lakes, ponds, rivers and pools. Parents must be aware that even a few moments away from a child around any form of water can be risky. They should not allow their child to be out of eye contact even for a moment such as answering a phone. They must remove water from any container such as pails or five gallon buckets immediately after using them and never leave children alone in a bathroom. Believe it or not many infants drown every year in toilets in their own home. Parents should not feel a false sense of security with their young child even though that child may have had swimming lessons. This is not drown-proofing for the child. Pool covers are not a substitute for a four sided fence. Learn CPR and keep safety equipment and a telephone readily available if you have a pool in your back yard. If someone has a pool in your neighborhood that is accessible to children, encourage them to build a safety fence around their entire backyard or at least around the pool.

To prevent drowning for older children, from age 5 to 12, we should teach them how to swim. We also should teach them safety rules such as not diving into lakes, streams, and rivers and the hazards of murky waters, currents, and dangerous weather. Teach them to never swim alone or without supervision. They should always use a personal flotation device whenever riding in a boat or fishing or playing near a river, lake, or ocean.

We should support legislation regulating basic safety for natural swimming areas and public and private recreation areas. An example would be to mandate having life guards in designated swimming areas. We must work to prevent the senseless drowning deaths and brain damage from near drownings that occurs so often in our teens. This is most often in young boys 13 to 19 who are boating and swimming while drinking. We should teach CPR to all teens in our schools through their health classes. We can support and enforce laws prohibiting any alcohol or drug consumption by teens while operating boats.

Each community or state can make a difference in the number of senseless drowning deaths if they are willing to work together. Let's all get behind this preventable tragedy and make a positive change in Louisiana.