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Swim season opens up safety concerns

May. 28, 2008, 10:14 AM

Memorial Day week is a time for medical experts to remind families to use extra caution with children swimming in area lakes and pools. From May through August, the Pediatric Emergency Department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt can expect to see dozens of children injured or killed in accidents involving the water.

"There are two peak ages of children who experience drowning events," said Tim Givens, M.D., associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital. "One group is toddlers, ages 1 to 4, who wander into the water when parents aren’t watching. Then there are teenagers, mostly boys, who are injured while doing something risky, like diving into the shallow end of the pool."

Every year, up to 30 children are injured seriously enough to be taken to Children’s Hospital. About half of those will suffer serious enough injuries to need extended hospital treatment, and every year two or three children die. That number does not take into account the children who die before they reach the hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drowning is consistently the second leading cause of accidental death in children age 1 to 14. The majority of drownings and near-drownings happen in residential swimming pools or open water areas, like lakes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following drowning statistics:

  • Children 4 and under have the highest drowning death rate, usually from pools or bathtubs
  • Drowning fatality rates are highest in the Southern United States.
  • About 40 percent of drownings happen on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Most children who drown in pools were out of sight for less than five minutes.
  • Most drownings in children, 1 to 4, happen in pools.
  • Most drownings in children, 5 to 14, are in open water sites.

Givens says while a full two-thirds of all drownings will happen in the swim season, almost all of them are preventable.

"The No. 1, 2 and 3 prevention strategies are proper supervision," Givens said. "Accidents happen more quickly than any parent expects. In less than two minutes under water, a child can lose consciousness. That’s why, especially for toddlers, they should never be out of sight when near a pool or body of water."

Other precautions that have been shown to save lives include:

  • A phone located at a pool
  • Lifeguards
  • Rescuing devices (floats or hooks)
  • Lockable fences and gates
  • Pool alarms (that go off when someone hits the water)

Media Contact: Carole Bartoo, (615) 322-4747

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