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Child health experts offer updated drowning prevention recommendations

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Recently the AAP issued updated guidelines in an effort to prevent more drowning incidents.

According to Dr. Eva Love, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, drowning prevention often comes down to knowing where children are at all times.

“For the children that are in that 1 to 4 age range, they actually can have an event simply because they’re not being watched,” she said. “The most important thing is that there is someone who is paying attention and aware at all times of where their child is because that is the number one reason for those children to have a drowning event.” 

Love points out that when it comes to very young children, drowning doesn’t necessarily happen in a large pool.

Research shows young children are at risk for having a drowning incident involved with a household item -- as it only takes 2 inches of water for a child to drown.

Items such as buckets, bathtubs and even small inflatable backyard pools are places where little ones could potentially drown.

Love said parents should always keep small backyard pools empty and deflated when not in use.

To prevent unanticipated access to water, pool owners should have barriers in place. This includes four-sided fencing, with a locking gate. Door alarms, pool alarms and rigid pool covers are also recommended.

The new guidelines also acknowledge the importance of water safety awareness, basic swim skills, and the ability for adults to recognize and respond to a swimmer in trouble.

While swimming lessons are important and recommended for children who are over the age of 1, Love warns that enrolling infants in swimming lessons can sometimes give parents a false sense of security.

“The data shows that if children are over the age of one, and the parent deems them to be developmentally appropriate, then taking a swimming class actually does reduce their risk of drowning,” she said. “But the data, absolutely, does not support that if children learn how to swim at less than the age of one, that this would reduce their risk.” 

The complete recommendations are available in Pediatrics.