Drowning Cases Hit Record Low at Cook Children's Amid COVID-19
When it comes to drownings, the summer of 2020 is a year for the record books. For the first time since at least 2012, Cook Children’s saw a total of 17 pediatric drowning patients in June and July. To put that in perspective, that’s less than half of the average number of drowning patients seen in those same months since 2015. Even better, all of these children survived.
“It’s definitely a much better summer than we’ve seen in recent years,” said Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s. “In a way, there may be a silver lining with COVID-19 that’s helping prevent many of the tragedies we’re used to seeing this time of the year.”
In June, Cook Children’s admitted eight patients for drowning injuries. Nine were treated in July. While the ideal number of drowning patients would be zero, it is encouraging to see fewer incidents, especially in light of the high volume from recent years.
June of 2015 marked a turning point for Cook Children’s on this issue. That month, emergency room staff saw nearly a child a day for drowning, 28 total. The numbers were so alarming, the hospital launched its first drowning prevention campaign, ‘Lifeguard Your Child.’
“I believe the message is starting to resonate with people,” said Dana Walraven, community health outreach manager for Cook Children’s. “The fact that the numbers are coming down is fantastic, especially with more children home, but we know we have to really continue the message.”
In the past five years, ‘Lifeguard Your Child’ has grown from a grassroots, social media campaign to a multi-pronged program with more than 70 partners across North Texas. So far this year, ‘Lifeguard Your Child’ partners have educated more than 3,500 children on water safety and distributed hundreds of life jackets. In addition, life jacket stations have been constructed for cities such as Cleburne, Alvarado, Weatherford, Grapevine and Flower Mound. These stations provide free life jackets for families to borrow at lakes.
“You’d think that during the pandemic that things just sort of stopped, but they really haven't,” said Walraven. “We’ve been enacting some really smart strategies to help force the numbers down.”
As in years past, hospital admissions data has been a main driver of the ‘Lifeguard Your Child’ campaign. One issue the data continues to point out is the importance of barriers around swimming pools. Out of the 17 cases seen in the past two months, eight occurred either during non-swim time (i.e. a child slipped outside of the home unnoticed) or when a child returned to a pool unsupervised after swim time had ended.
“Tracking the data has helped us understand the biggest threats for children around water,” Walraven said. “The majority of the drowning incidents we see are not during what we consider ‘planned swim time.’ Most are happening either when it's not a planned swim event, or when it's in transition, like packing up and leaving after a day at the pool.”
There is one specific difference this year from summers past, according to Evans. She says we’re seeing less drowning cases from large gatherings.
“We used to see many cases from backyard parties where families would get together, and often a child would slip under the water. There was a false sense of security with so many adults present, but too often there wasn’t a ‘water watcher’ or someone monitoring the water 100%,” Evans explained. “We’re seeing less of this now and I think that has to do with people not getting together as much due to COVID-19.”
Both Evans and Walraven say they’re thankful to see less children being injured around water and hope the trend continues.
“I'm just grateful to our partners for everything they are doing, from offering swim lessons to handing out life jackets,” said Walraven. “We're fortunate to live in an area where everyone is so concerned about the wellbeing of our community, and that's a really cool thing to be part of.”
Learn more about the "Lifeguard Your Child" Campaign
Water safety is important at any age. When it comes to drowning, seconds count. It’s silent and can happen in an instant. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause for kids 1-14 in Texas. But with your help, we can change that. Click here to learn more.
Please join us in our drowning prevention efforts. Together, we are asking everyone to Lifeguard Your Child around water. Click the below link to learn more about how to get involved or create an awareness campaign in your community. Click here to find out how you can get involved.