This post was written by Maria Estrada, DO and Holly Hale, RN, BSN. Dr. Estrada came to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 1999 after completing fellowship at Miami Children’s Hospital. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and an Intensivist in the department of Critical Care Medicine. Holly has been a member of our PICU staff for 22 years. She has worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital since 1990.
As the days get warmer and our thoughts go to refreshing swimming pools and water parks, we should remember that water can be dangerous. Over the last five years, 52 children have been admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a result of drowning. In this year alone, we have admitted 9 children as a result of drowning. Drowning can occur almost anywhere: at home, in public or private pools, in lakes and ponds, or at water parks. It can occur at any age and can happen “in an instant”.
Here are some tips on what to do – and not do – to prevent drowning:
- Never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bath. If you need to step out of the room, take the baby with you. All too often, parents say, “I was only gone a minute and she fell into the water”.
- Pools should have fencing around all four sides – not counting the house as a side – with self-closing or self-latching doors that are too high for children to reach. Drowning accidents happen when parents assume, “I thought the gate was closed,” or, “I didn’t know she could open the door.”
- While out on the water, always wear a life jacket. It’s better to be safe than to end up in the emergency room and say, “We didn’t think she would fall out of the boat”.
- Remind your children to never go near the pool unattended, even if a toy falls in. It is never too soon for our children to learn about pool and water safety. Many times, after a drowning incident has occurred, a child will say, “My toy fell in and I tried to get it out”. Removing toys from the pool after swimming is also a good idea.
- An adult should always keep an eye on children near water. If the adult who is supervising needs to step away or leave, give another adult the task of watching the children. On vacation, it’s especially important to be more vigilant. There’s often confusion over who is supervising – “I thought you were watching… no, I thought you were watching,” – and this can result in drowning accidents.
- Learn how to do CPR. Anyone can learn CPR, and it’s a great skill for all caregivers to know, even if there’s no water nearby. Many times, parents or family members will say, “I didn’t know what to do and felt helpless.” By learning CPR, the life you save will most likely be a loved one – a spouse, a parent, a friend or a child.
- Teach children to swim. Lessons might not prevent a child from drowning, but they can help children feel more comfortable in the water. Most children can learn to swim around the age of five, but all children will still need supervision. This is especially important because children might overestimate how good they are at swimming or get tired in the water.
Our goal to prevent drowning incidents can be accomplished. Its fun to play at the pool or water park during the summer, but it’s also important to remember that anyone can have a water-related accident. Following simple safety guidelines is critical to keeping your children safe in and near the water.