Pediatricians warn pandemic may increase drowning risks this summer

The AAP wants parents to take the following steps to reduce the risk of childhood drowning.

Pediatricians warn pandemic may increase drowning risks this summer

Many parents are budgeting cautiously right now due to the pandemic-induced recession but people are still buying pools. From $30 inflatable pools on Amazon to big backyard swim spas, pool sales are up, and the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to make sure water safety awareness goes up, too.

The AAP is concerned that with so many families playing in private pools this summer, child drownings could rise if people are not aware of the risks that pools (even the small inflatable or plastic ones) can present to young children. In fact, in some parts of Florida child drownings are up 100% over this time last year.


As Dr. Ben Hoffman, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention explains, "Drowning is the single leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and it's one of the top causes of death for teens."

Most drownings of preschoolers happen in pools and 69% of kids who drown were not meant to be swimming when they did.

That's why the AAP is especially worried this summer. Parents aren't just putting in backyard pools, but they are also often trying to work from home—it's easy to imagine a child heading out to the pool unnoticed while mom or dad is busy on a work call. While the AAP does say children as young as 1 year old can benefit from swimming lessons, those aren't available in many communities right now, and even if they were, experts recommend a multifaceted approach to keep kids safe.

When it comes to water play (in a pool, lake, ocean, river or bathtub) constant adult supervision is key, so having the kids splash around while you check email is not a safe plan. Kids need to be within reach of an adult while in the water and parents who are putting in pools need to install pool barriers and take CPR training.

In addition to swimming lessons, the AAP wants parents to take the following steps to reduce the risk of childhood drowning:

  • Everyone in the household, kids and adults, should learn how to swim if there is a pool on the property.
  • Get a 4 foot, 4-sided, isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and the rest of the yard with a self-closing, self- latching gate." The CDC recommends additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Wading pools, bathtubs and buckets should be emptied right after use.
According to the AAP, parents need to ensure "close, constant, attentive supervision around water [and assign] an adult 'water watcher,' who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores."

Staying home and enjoying the pool can be a safe and fun way to stay active during the pandemic and as long as families are aware of the safety rules we can lower the risks this summer.

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