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Leading Cause of Accidental Death in Children is Drowning

Updated on May 18, 2012

Drowning is the leading cause of death in kids between 1 and 4 years old, according to a recent study by the CDC. Near-drowning accidents account for a high number of injuries too, with many victims suffering permanent brain damage. With summer just around the corner parents should learn all they can about preventing this horrible tragedy.

How parents can prevent accidental drowning

Teach your child to swim - Providing swimming lessons for children is a smart idea, but remember it doesn't guarantee their safety. Close parental supervision is still vital.

Learn CPR - It is a valuable skill all parents and caregivers should have.

Surround your pool by a fence - If your home has a pool make sure it's fully surrounded by a high fence, at least 4 ft. The gate for your pool fence should be self closing and have a latch high enough so children can't reach it.

Be prepared - Keep a phone and emergency equipment near your pool.

Use your common sense - It should go without saying that young children should never be left unattended near a pool or any body of open water. Even if they are a strong swimmer it's just not worth the risk. This goes for small plastic pools too. They may be shallow, but a young kid can drown in just a few inches of water. Empty these small pools after each use. Also, don't leave toys in or around the pool. They could entice a young child to go in after them.

Talk to your kids - Be clear on what is unacceptable behavior around pools. Let them know running, shoving and jumping on others around water is not OK. Remind them often never to swim alone.

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Recognize the signs of drowning

If your only first hand knowledge of drowning is from TV you may not be able to recognize when it is happening very near you. Drowning victims usually don't wave their arms violently, splash or yell for help, because they simply can't. They are usually struggling just to breath, and aren't able to call out. Instinctively most will push down in the water with their arms, trying to push their heads above water, so they are unable to wave to alert others they need help. It's not unheard of for a child to drown within feet of a parent or caregiver. That's why it's important to learn the almost silent signs of distress before embarking on a family vacation to the beach, or taking a trip to the pool.

  • Mouth and nose sinks below and reappears above the water's surface
  • They remain upright in the water, usually not kicking
  • Their eyes are closed or glassy and unable to focus
  • Arms are to the side or pushing down on either side. Sometimes arms are extended forward reaching for help
  • Hair may be covering their eyes or forehead
  • Head is tilted back, and their mouth may be open. To onlookers it may appear they are just looking up at the sky.
  • Kids that are being unusually quiet need to be checked on right away. Most kids make lots of noise playing in the water.

If you are taking a family vacation to the beach keep a few more things in mind. Larger waves can disorient and upturn even strong swimmers. If this is your little ones first time in the ocean they are likely unfamiliar and unprepared for these waves. Rip tides are powerful currents that can quickly push children away from the shore. Many children are down right fearless in the ocean and will venture out too far if you let them. Because of the unpredictable nature of the ocean it's extra important to stay very close to your young child. Don't depend on lifeguards to keep an eye on your kids!

If you buy a life jacket or flotation suit for your young child they still need you within arms reach. Some like to use them for kids that aren't yet strong swimmers, or for extra peace of mind, but it's no excuse to let your guard down.


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