How Parents Can Avoid Repeating Last Year’s Record Memorial Day Drownings
Last year’s Memorial Day weekend was a tragic one at Cook Children’s.
Over the four-day holiday weekend in 2018, nine children were admitted to the medical center for drowning. Two of those children died. Last year marked the first time drowning fatalities were recorded at Cook Children’s in May since at least 2012 (when the Trauma department began gathering statistics). All the drownings occurred at a pool, but the locations happened at apartments, hotels and at family homes.
“Last year was a brutal one for all of us,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services. “Every year, we are asking parents to ‘Lifeguard Your Child’ and every year, we see the same drowning tragedies with multiple families torn apart.”
Dr. Warmink 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.
He says drowning happens in a matter of seconds, can be subtle and silent, and generally occur when adults and family members are nearby.
“People need to actively supervise their children when they are in or even near water. This means designating a specific person whose responsibility it is to watch the water without distraction,” Dr. Warmink said. “We strongly encourage parents to be in arm's length of their child while in water. And that’s not just in pools or at the lake. That includes bathtubs or any other container with water. A child can drown in even a few inches of water.”
Teaching your children the dangers of water, having them learn to swim and parents learning CPR are also worthwhile ways to prevent drowning, Dr. Warmink said.
Sharon Evans, Trauma/Injury Prevention Outreach Coordinator at Cook Children’s, 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 mistake 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.
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.”
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