COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
And it’s a statistic that touches kids of all ages, not just the little ones. The AAP says that while the highest rate of fatal drowning occurs in infants and young children aged 0 to 4 years, the second highest rate is in adolescents aged 15 to 19.
Experts say the best line of defense parents have in preventing these tragedies is to make sure their children know how to swim. To learn more, 11 news anchor Katie Pelton sat down with lead author of the AAP’s Drowning Prevention Policy Statement, Dr. Sarah Denny, together. Below is their conversation.
Pelton: Dr. Denny, first tell me about the new guidelines that are being issued. What do parents need to know?
Denny: “Drowning has long been one of the leading causes of death in children and, unfortunately, it is still the leading cause of death from injury in children aged 1 to 4 in our country. It’s really important that we proactively prevent these drowning deaths. So when we released the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, we really focused on two different scenarios. One is when children are expected to be around water and that’s where we have layers of protection like swimming lessons, lifeguards, adult supervision, life jackets and the like. Then there is the case where a child is not expected to be in or near water. So if you have a swimming pool in your house and you cook dinner, don’t expect your kids to have access to the water, so you might not be keeping a direct eye on them, but there is still a risk of drowning. So what can we do to prevent drowning in this scenario? And that would be four-sided fences, door alarms, restricted access for the child to get to the water.”
I actually signed my daughter up for swimming lessons early in the pandemic and eventually they got canceled and the pool closed. I brought her back into class because that was always a concern of mine. This has happened to many parents, is that what you hear?
“The families who had their children in swimming lessons before the pandemic might not have been to a swimming pool in those two years so you can’t expect their swimming skills to be the same as before. Anyway, proceed with caution, it really is important to re-enroll them in swimming lessons to familiarize themselves with the water and to protect themselves. So yes, there are some kids who were younger during the pandemic period and never had swimming lessons.”
I will also say I know some pools and recreation centers offer quick classes to try and catch kids up. Instead of taking classes for months, they have classes every day for a couple of weeks. What other advice do you have? What can we do at the pool or at home?
“Great question. One really important thing is that swimming lessons are great and have been shown in children over the age of one to reduce the risk of drowning, but it’s also important to remember that swimming lessons don’t make our children drown, so just because yours does Just because your child has had swimming lessons doesn’t mean they can walk without adult supervision. So if it’s in the swimming pool, even if there’s a lifeguard on duty, if you’re a beginner swimmer, you should still be within reach of that swimmer, really close parental supervision or adult supervision. If you are perhaps at a lake or at a large gathering, it is helpful to have an assigned water watcher and it is that person’s duty and responsibility to watch the children in the water without distraction. That means you’re not on your phone, you’re not reading your book. And you can rotate that person every now and then so it’s not the same person taking on that responsibility. But having an individual identified is really crucial, because you know the old adage when it comes to watching kids: “When everyone’s watching, nobody’s really watching.” So having that particular person is really important.”
In 2017, drowning claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 US children under the age of 20. Which age group is most at risk?
“The 1- to 4-year-old age group is most at risk of drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of fatal injuries in this age group. But we’re also seeing another peak in youth, and that’s more in the open-water scenario, so in a quarry, in a lake, that kind of thing — it can be multifactorial, the reasons for it, sometimes there’s substance use, often overestimating it Children their own abilities, more risk-taking behavior. So we definitely see another peak in this age group.
“You asked about toddlers; In fact, children aged 0 to 1 are most likely to drown at home, which means in the bathtub, in buckets of water and even in the toilet. So it’s also important to consider what poses a drowning risk in your home.”
Any other advice for this summer?
“Swimming is a life skill. Even if you’re not a great swimmer or your kid isn’t a great swimmer, they don’t have nice moves, they’re not on the swim team, that’s okay. But kids should be able to have enough training and skills to get themselves to the surface of the water if they fall in and then get themselves to safety.
“I would also say that adult CPR is really important. We know that CPR in a short period of time can really improve morbidity and mortality in children who have experienced drowning, so it’s also very important for us to ensure that we refresh these skills.”
Click here for a link to the AAP Policies.
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