Although most drownings occur in residential swimming pools, children can drown in just one inch of water (such as in buckets, bath tubs, wading pools, diaper pails, toilets, hot tubs, and spas). In addition, open waters such as oceans, rivers, and lakes pose a drowning threat to older children.
Consider these facts concerning drowning from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign:
- When a child is submerged two minutes in water, he/she loses consciousness.
- Irreversible brain damage sets in after four to six minutes of water submersion.
- Most children die if they are found after 10 minutes in the water.
Parents are advised to take the following preventive steps to protect their children from drowning:
- Never leave your child unsupervised near water at or in the home, or around any body of water, including a swimming pool.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and infant and child first-aid.
- Do not rely on personal flotation devices (PFDs) or swimming lessons to protect your child.
- Install childproof fencing around swimming pools.
- Make sure you have rescue equipment, a telephone, and emergency phone numbers near the swimming pool.
- Insist that your child wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device on boats at all times.
- Do not allow children to dive in waters less than 9 feet deep.
On boats, PFDs should be US Coast Guard-approved. Inflatable swimming devices such as "water wings," rafts, toys, and other items are not considered safe and should not be relied on to prevent drowning.
More than half of all infant drownings (under age 1) occur in bathtubs. Supportive baby bathtub "rings" do not prevent drownings if the child is unsupervised. Water hazards in and around the home may include the following:
- buckets (especially 5-gallon size)
- diaper pails
- ice chests with melted ice
- hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools
- ditches and post holes
- ponds and fountains
Small children can drown when they lean forward to look into a bucket or open the toilet. Because the head is the heaviest part of a small child, it is easy for him/her to fall over into a container. Containers filled with liquid often weigh more than the small child and will not tip over when the child falls in.
More than half of childhood drownings occur in swimming pools, either at the child's home or at a friend's, neighbor's, or relative's house. Pools are especially hazardous if:
- children swim unsupervised.
- the pool is not properly fenced in.
- there is no telephone with emergency numbers nearby.
- there is no rescue equipment near the pool.
- parents rely on personal flotation devices (PFDs) to keep their child safe.
When boating, sailing, and canoeing, children of all ages should wear US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) such as life jackets. In fact, many states require the use of PFDs on all boats at all times. According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, it is estimated that 85 percent of boating-related drownings can be prevented if people wear PFDs.
Children can drown during the winter by falling through thin ice. In addition, pools with winter covers that do not completely cover the pools pose a threat, because children can slip between the cover into the pool.
If children are around bodies of water on a regular basis, it benefits parents to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which, in case of an emergency, can save lives, reduce the severity of injury, and improve the chance of survival. CPR training is available through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and your local hospital or fire department.
Diving accidents can result in permanent spinal cord injuries, brain damage, and/or death. Diving accidents occur when a person:
- dives into shallow water.
- dives into above-ground pools, which are usually shallow.
- dives into the shallow end of a pool.
- springs upward from the diving board and hits the board on the way down.