Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in U.S. children between the ages of 1-4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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But, there’s positive news: We’re making progress. The childhood unintentional drowning rate fell by more than 50% between 1985 and 2017, according to AAP’s numbers.
The organization recently issued updated guidelines in an effort to prevent more drowning incidents.
“For the children in that 1 to 4 age range, they can have an event simply because they’re not being watched,” she says. “The most important thing is that there is someone who is paying attention to and aware at all times of where that child is, because that is the number one reason for children to have a drowning event.”
In the pool and beyond
Dr. Love points out that when it comes to very young children, drowning doesn’t necessarily happen in a large pool. A drowning incident could involve household items such as buckets, bathtubs and even small inflatable backyard pools, as it only takes 2 inches of water for a child to drown.
Parents should always keep small backyard pools empty and deflated when not in use, she says.
To prevent unanticipated access to water, residential 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, Dr. 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 1, and the parent deems them to be developmentally appropriate, then taking a swimming class actually does reduce their risk of drowning,” she says. “But the data absolutely does not support that if children learn how to swim at less than the age of 1, that this would reduce their risk.”
The complete recommendations are available in Pediatrics.