Most child deaths after 1 year old are due to accidents, and drowning accounts for approximately a quarter of deaths for the 1-4-year-old range. Put another way, drowning is second only to motor vehicle accidents1 as the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5.
Tina from The Making of a Modern Mommy sent out an email with the following link from gCaptain to remind us all of water safety, especially as we enter the summer months (in my hemisphere and latitude, at least). This is chilling to read, but do so anyway and help save a life this summer!
"Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life."
Children (and adults) who are drowning do not exhibit the TV-acculturated signs of distress we tend to look for, such as screaming and thrashing and waving their arms.
Here's what a (real) drowning child (person) looks and sounds like:
- Quiet. Drowning children cannot talk or yell for help, because they are too busy trying desperately to breathe. Talking and screaming are out of the question. If you're in doubt if someone's drowning, ask. If he can answer, he might still be in distress, but he is not yet drowning. If the child doesn't answer, assume the worst and help!
- Immobile. Drowning children do not have strength to swim toward help or wave their arms to get attention. They bob quietly up and down vertically as they struggle to keep their head above water. They use their arms instinctually to push them upwards. The body is very low in the water, with just part of the head showing.
From the article:
"Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck."Read more signs of drowning at the article.
Children who are drowning can have under a minute before they sink and succumb. Help a drowning child immediately by following these steps, from WikiHow:
- Yell for help, no matter how good a swimmer you are.
- Stay calm, and encourage the child to stay calm as well.
- Try to reach the child from safety (such as a pool deck or boat deck). Lie facedown and use your outstretched arm, a t-shirt, or a tool such as a lifeguard's hook. If you must be in the water yourself, try to hold something strong to anchor yourself, such as a pool ladder, so that the child's frantic grabbing does not push you under, or row in a boat to the child.
- As a last resort, swim to the child. It is very dangerous to attempt to rescue a drowning victim in the water and could result in your own injury or death. Try to bring an assisting device with you if at all possible, such as a life buoy or float to place between you and the child. If you must swim the child back to shore or the side of the pool, approach from behind and slide one or both your arms under her armpit(s) from the back. With both of you more or less on your backs, kick or sidestroke toward shore. Continue speaking in a calm voice to reassure and calm the child. If you have a flotation device, have it against your chest between you and the victim. If the child is clutching frantically at you and inadvertently bringing you under water, swim downwards until she instinctively lets you go, and then try again or seek additional help.
- Never leave children unattended near or in water. This includes the bathtub. Don't slip away for "just a minute." Remember that babies and children who drown will not yell out or splash the water to alert you to their distress. They will sink quietly under the water, and you will never know if you're not there to help immediately.
- Do not rely on water safety devices. Your children can use and enjoy water wings, bath seats, pool floats, and lifejackets — but they are no substitute for adult supervision at all times. Children can and have drowned while wearing or using these devices.
- Do not rely on swim classes. Children can start learning to swim from infancy, but even strong swimmers (even strong adult swimmers) can succumb to fatigue or water obstacles and drown. Have a trusted adult close at hand, no matter how good a swimmer your child is, and encourage older children to use the buddy system and keep an eye on each other.
- Lock up family pools. "Drowning Is Quick and Quiet, Keep Your Eyes on Your Kids Around Water" from the Kansas City Kids infoZine has helpful tips:
- Fences around pools and hot tubs should be at least 5 feet high and have a self-latching mechanism.
- Hot tubs need to have appropriate drain covers and vacuum releases to prevent entrapment. Children's hair or suits can get trapped in the drain, and the suction is too powerful for children (and even some adults) to fight.
- Remove covers completely before using the pool for the season.
- Consider attaching alarms to pool gates, or even exterior doors leading to the yard. There have been children who have gone outside to inspect the pool while their parents were sleeping.
1 Please keep children in rear-facing car seats as long as possible.↩