Water accidents can happen anywhere—to anyone. Though we might associate drownings with pools and beaches, the reality is that we call them "accidents" for a reason.
To help you keep your family safe, The American Academy of Pediatrics has analyzed the latest research on pediatric drownings. They've identified some key trends, like the time frame when most water accidents tend to occur and which age groups are most at risk of drowning.
Health experts want you to be aware of the risks, and to also understand that there's no single intervention that can prevent all water accidents.
Here's what the report, published in this month's Pediatrics journal, has to say:
- Male toddlers and adolescent boys are at the greatest risk of drowning.
- Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in American children ages one to four. The report also found that about 75% of all children and teens who die from drowning are male. Teenage boys are ten times more likely to drown than girls.
- Children under two are more likely to drown in a bathtub or bucket than in a pool. Experts say it's important to keep an eye on little kids when they're in the bath and to always empty all containers of water (like bathtubs and buckets) immediately after use.
- According to the report, preschool aged-children are more likely to drown in swimming pools. "These children are developmentally curious and drawn to water but lack the awareness of its dangers," the authors explain.
- Children under the age of five often have "unexpected, unsupervised access" to water, leading to accidents. Again, it's important to make sure to empty all containers of water, even bathtubs, and to keep pools fenced and locked when not in use.
- Drowning rates are higher in Black children and American Indian/Alaska Native children. Black children ages 5 to 19 were five-and-a-half times more likely to drown in a pool than white children of the same age.
- Children with Autism are at an increased risk of drowning. According to the report, "a 2017 study revealed that unintentional injury deaths were nearly 3 times as likely for all individuals with ASD compared with the general population."
- Most deaths (75%) for children under 15 happen between May and August. Going even further, experts say there are peak times of day for those accidents, too. One report found the peak time of day was 6 pm to 8 pm, with 75% of all incidents occurring between noon and 9 pm. Another found that approximately half of drownings occurred between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Experts say those windows coincide with the busiest swim times, as well as dinner time.
A new #DrowningPrevention report finds hundreds of children die annually of drowning and thousands go to the hospit… https://t.co/uUMyJW8UoU
— American Academy of Pediatrics (@AmerAcadPeds)
What can we do?
We share all these statistics not to scare you, mama, but to help make you aware of the dangers that water poses.
In order to prevent drownings and water accidents, the AAP report says that parents should take a layered approach to water safety.
"Drowning is quick and silent – not at all what people might expect – and it can happen in a bathtub, an inflatable backyard pool or hotel pool or beach where lifeguards are on duty," said Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, lead author of the report, written by the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.
"Parents may expect to hear a child splashing or crying if they are in trouble in the water, but often that is just not the case. We do have strategies to prevent these tragedies, which include not only close supervision but putting up physical barriers to prevent children's access to water."
First and foremost, experts recommend close and constant attention to children when in the presence of water, whether that's in a pool or bathtub. Infants especially should never be left alone in the bathtub.
"We recommend swim sessions for children beginning around age 1, with the understanding that lessons and swimming skills are essential but are not enough on their own and won't 'drown-proof' a child," said Linda Quan, MD, FAAP, a co-author of the report.
"Parents will want to consider if their child is mature enough for swim lessons and talk with the pediatrician if they have any concerns about a child's physical limitations or health."
They also recommend four-sided pool fencing, at least four feet tall, with self-closing and self-latching gates that completely isolate the pool from the house and yard.
To prevent drowning in toilets, the report says young children shouldn't be left alone in bathrooms. Toilet locks may be helpful.
"It's exciting to see kids outside again, at camp and playing with their friends," Dr. Denny said. "We want everyone to have a safe summer, including time spent making memories at beaches, lakes, and the pool."