6 Drowning Patients This Month, Including 1 Fatal
Experts stress 100-percent supervision, layers of protection
Only two weeks into the month of May and one child has died from drowning, while five others were seen at Cook Children's for near drownings.
The ages of the children ranged from 1 year to 9 years old. The drownings all occurred in pools.
“Unfortunately, we had a busy weekend with drownings and we aren’t even at Memorial Day,” said Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention Outreach coordinator at Cook Children’s.
Last year, eight kids were seen at Cook Children’s for drowning during the entire month of May and none were fatal.
As we head into the summer, Cook Children’s is once again asking parents to “Lifeguard Your Child.”
The focus is on parents never taking their eyes off their children while they are swimming, and that includes until they are safely in the house or car.
“We’ve seen many cases where children removed their life vests and jumped back in the water,” said Magdalena Santillan, Trauma Injury Prevention specialist at Cook Children’s. “Often, parents are getting ready to leave the pool and don’t realize their kids have jumped back in.”
Evans warns parents against letting their guard down once the child leaves the pool or lake. That moment when a parent relaxes can place the child at risk.
“It’s important for kids to wear a Coast Guard approved life vest and for parents to be in arm’s reach of their child,” Evans said. “The mistakes that people make is taking the life vest off once they are out of the water. I tell parents to keep the life vest on until they are actually putting their child in the car or they are in their home with the door shut and locked.”
Evans said if children go to the bathroom, a parent should go with them and hold the life vest. Once they have washed their hands, place the life vest back on before they leave the bathroom and head back to the water.
Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s, calls drowning a “preventable tragedy.” In nearly nine out of 10 child drowning–related deaths, the parent or caregiver said the child had been with them in the house or pool within five minutes of the accident.
“Children should never be in water without adults watching them,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s. “If you have a toddler, that child shouldn't be in water without what we call touch supervision. You need to be in arm's length and it's not just pools. That includes bathtubs or any other container with water. I've seen kids drown in buckets. A child can drown in any water, even a few inches deep. Supervision isn't, 'Hey there’s six of us cooking hamburgers and text messaging.' It means there’s someone who has the designated job to watch the children in the water.”
The safety experts at Cook Children’s say kids can’t afford anything less than 100 percent adult supervision at the pool at all times. That means not taking your eyes off of a child while he or she is in the water.
For many of us, that starts with putting away perhaps the greatest competition for a grownup's attention - their phone.
“We understand the need for a phone at the pool, in case of emergencies, but those phones need to be put away until you leave the swimming area,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Parents should only be spending time watching their kids and not on the phone.”
Drowning prevention around the pool begins with adult supervision, but there are other steps parents can take at home to help protect their children from drowning.
Use these safety techniques and layers of protection whenever children are around the pool:
- Require adult Water Watchers to stay close and actively watch children in water. Water Watchers must stay off cell phones and not talk to other guests during their 15 minutes shift.
- If you are alone with your child, stay with your child. Get in the water with your child and be in arm's reach.
- Swim with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests. Don't use floaties filled with air.
- Learn to swim at any age.
- Learn CPR.
- Install a fence on all sides of a backyard pool or spa. Secure the fence with a self-latching gate.
- Use alarms that can be put on children's wrists.
- Also, install alarms in pools and on doors that lead to pools.
- Update pool/spa drain covers.
- Follow pool rules and signs.
- A fence with a locking gate should surround the pool.
- Install door alarms to alert adults when a child is entering the pool area.
“If you are somewhere where children are in the pool, insist that an adult be on watch,”Walraven said. “It should be done by a sober adult and that should be his or her only focus during their time watching the kids.”