What kid doesn’t love summer? After the chill of winter and spring, it’s a chance for children to embrace sun, fun, and pool time. It’s also the time of year when the largest number of drowning incidents happen.
Not only is drowning the number one cause of death for children ages 1–4, it is an especially silent and swift killer, often occurring in as little as 20–60 seconds. And it generally occurs in or close to home, with 87% of drowning fatalities for children ages 1–5 happening in home pools or hot tubs, with pools owned by neighbors, family, or friends the most likely place.
Drowning is a form of suffocation. When lungs take in water, they are no longer able to perform the process of breathing. When oxygenated blood is no longer being delivered to the heart, the body shuts down. How long that process takes can be remarkably short. The average adult can only hold their breath for about 30 seconds. For children, that period is even shorter. Permanent brain damage and death can result from a person being submerged in water for as little as 4 minutes without being resuscitated. Even when an individual is rescued from a near-drowning incident, the inhaled water can still cause drowning hours later.
While it is commonly believed that most drownings happen in deep bodies of water, it actually takes very little water to result in drowning. Even retained water on a pool covering has tragically resulted in a child’s drowning. How much water it takes to cause a drowning death depends on a number of factors, including the age, weight, and general health of an individual’s lungs and respiratory system. Some studies have indicated that an individual only needs to inhale a millimeter of fluid for every kilogram they weigh. For a child who weighs 35 pounds, that is just about an ounce of water.
Drownings do not always result in death – which is the most severe outcome. For every fatal drowning victim, an additional estimated 5–10 individuals require hospital care for nonfatal drowning injuries.
Given the dangers associated with pools, it is important to know that pools are especially attractive to young children who may leave their own homes to search them out. Recognizing this, pool owners can implement certain measures to make their pools inaccessible and safer overall.
For instance, pool owners should consider surrounding their pools with fences/gates that are self-closing, self-latching, and locked/alarmed or installing a retractable safety cover on the pool. They may also consider installing an underwater pool alarm that sounds when someone gets in the pool. Finally, consideration should be given to installing anti-entrapment measures to the drain covers in their pool.
Additionally, parents and guardians of small children share in the responsibility of water safety. First, they should ensure their children know how to swim as early as possible. Second, the adults should be trained in basic first aid and CPR so they can promptly respond if a drowning occurs – it could be the difference between life and death. Finally, knowing the location of neighborhood pools is important as such locations should be checked first if a child suddenly goes missing.
If you or someone you know has suffered because of a drowning or near drowning incident, we can help you.