May 27, 2011

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt takes steps to reduce accidental drowning



Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of pool season. Many parents will cover their children with sunscreen and head to the closest pool for some fun in the sun. Doctors and safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are urging parents and caregivers to pay close attention to the risks of drowning, the leading cause of death in Tennessee for children ages 1 to 4.

The majority of these drownings occur in home or apartment swimming pools, or other open bodies of water such as lakes.

Last year, the number of children who came to Children’s Hospital reached a critical level in the months following Memorial Day. The Pediatric Emergency Department treated almost five times the number of children involved in drownings or near-drownings than during the previous year.

In an effort to prevent these accidents, Children’s Hospital is partnering with Safe Kids Cumberland Valley and a number of other community organizations to introduce a proactive water safety campaign, “Water Wise Middle Tennessee.” In the next few weeks, more than 1,100 educational posters, which offer preventive safety tips, will be posted at public pools in Nashville and other surrounding areas.

The campaign’s main message, says Purnima Unni, pediatric trauma injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospital, is constant adult supervision.

“Drowning is a silent killer. There is no screaming or waving for help like you may see on television.” says Unni.  “In less than two minutes under water, a child can lose consciousness and brain damage can occur after just four to six minutes.”

Unni says parents should always outfit young children with a U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation device and refrain from distracting activities such as reading or talking on the phone while supervising children.  In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “touch supervision” for kids younger than 5, which means parents or caregivers should always be within arm’s length of children.

Other pool safety tips include:

  • Creating barriers such as fences, gates and door locks around home pools
  • Teaching your child to swim, which provides basic survival skills
  • Preparing for an emergency by learning CPR, mapping out a plan and having a phone near the pool

Safe Kids Cumberland Valley and its lead agency, Children Hospital, formed the Safe Kids Water Safety Task Force last fall to reduce the risk of child drowning in Middle Tennessee.

Safe Kids Cumberland Valley includes representatives from public safety and children’s health agencies, public policy servants, community organizations, business leaders and community members who work together to keep kids safe across 41 counties in Middle Tennessee. The Safe Kids Coalition carries out grassroots initiatives in support of Safe Kids USA, a national nonprofit organization devoted to reducing unintentional injuries to children across the country.

For more information on water safety, please visit