Rarely a Splash or Cry for Help

July 22, 2014

Three children were playing in a pool. Three adults were sitting with them, providing supervision. Two of the children, the girls, were holding the other child, the boy, under water, thinking they were playing with him. The adults were unaware that the boy was in trouble. Finally, the boy burst free, screaming that he almost drowned. The girls were shaken. They were only playing! The adults were shaken. They had no idea this was happening. This event occurred in my pool with my daughter. She and the adults learned important lessons that day.

Drowning is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. One in five who dies from drowning are children age 14 and under. In fact, children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. For every child who dies from drowning, another 5 receive emergency department care for a non-fatal water injury. Non-fatal water events can be life changing. 50% of water-related accidents cause injuries that require further hospitalization compared to 6% of all other unintentional injuries. (CDC data)

Data and statistics can describe the problem but they do not bring home the point that  drowning can happen anytime, to any child, in any city. One moment a son or daughter is there. The next, the child has slipped beneath the water. Google “accidental drowning” on the internet and you will read too many stories about children drowning when parents thought they were safe. Chuck Whitimer, Past President of the National Spa and Pool Institute, delivered this message in a speech, “Drowning is a silent accident.  There’s rarely a splash or cry for help… Too many times, parents believe that this tragedy could never happen to their family.” 

Prevention Tips For Safe Swimming

  • When you are supervising swimmers, it means that you must truly watch them. If you are distracted by phones, texting or reading, a child can drown on your watch. Take turns with other adults so that your time is dedicated to your task.
  • All people who want to be around water should learn the basics of swimming. All people (even good swimmers) should swim with supervision.  
  • Don’t allow horseplay around water: no pushing people in, no running, no glass containers around pools, no sitting on people or pushing them under water.
  • To prevent paralyzing injuries, teach “Feet First First time” to all swimmers, young, old and in-between.  This action enables the diver to judge the depth of the water.  If they touch the bottom easily, the water is to shallow for diving.  This will also help identify hidden underwater objects, such as rocks. 
  • Get trained in CPR.
  • Be sure lifesaving equipment (poles, ropes with a lifesaving ring) are always nearby.
  • If you are a homeowner with a pool, be sure it is completely enclosed.  If you have very young children around, don’t rely solely upon that fence for safety.  Kids can climb!  Consider a door, window or pool alarm.
  • Make life jackets a "must." Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too.
  • Don’t rely on swimming aids. Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device
  • Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets. Pools that pose the greatest risk of entrapment are children’s public wading pools, in-ground hot tubs, or any other pools that have flat drain grates or a single main drain system.
  • If you own a pool or hot tub with a drain, make sure drain covers are secure and have no cracks, and replace flat drain covers with dome-shaped ones. If a pool or hot tub has a broken, loose or missing drain cover, don’t use it. If you do have drains, protective measures include anti-entrapment drain covers and a safety vacuum release system to automatically release suction and shut down the pump should entrapment occur. Go to www.PoolSafety.gov for a list of manufacturers of certified covers.  

The information in this column was compiled from www.safekids.org and cdc.gov. Visit these websites to learn more about water safety. For Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) without internet access, you can request written material by phone, 203 248-4528 or by email, dculligan@qvhd.org.