Most Drowning Deaths at Cook Children’s since 2012
11 Prevention Tips from Our Experts
Cook Children’s staff has seen the most since drowning deaths since at least 2012.
According to the Trauma registry, 10 children have died this year already. Two deaths occurred in the month of July to pass the total of eight deaths in 2016. The ages of the children who have died this year range from 17 months old to 13 years of age.
The numbers hit the staff at Cook Children’s especially hard because so much effort continues to be focused on protecting children in and around the water with the “Lifeguard Your Child” campaign.
“It has been a really bad year and it’s not even August,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s. “For us, in the Emergency Department, it’s just sad because this is something that’s totally preventable. But this is not anything new. We live in Texas and we see this all the time. There are a lot of pools and lakes here. It’s just water and children don’t mix without adult supervision and children wearing their lifejackets.”
This year the experts at Cook Children’s have placed an emphasis on the drownings that occur during non-swim time. Half of the drowning deaths seen at Cook Children’s occurred while the child wasn’t actively swimming, meaning the children gained access during times the family hadn’t planned to be at the pool, pond, lake, etc.
“We’ve talked a lot about how parents need to ‘Lifeguard their child,’ but that doesn’t stop once a child is out of the water,” Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator at Cook Children’s, said. “I think what happens a lot of times is that parents are on high alert while their children are in the water, but then they tend to let their guard down once the day is over and it’s time to leave the pool. Unfortunately, that’s when children are most at risk for going back into the water without anything to prevent them from drowning.”
As a parent, Dr. Warmink stresses supervision of his own children in the pool. He calls it a hallmark of making sure children are safe. Half of all drownings occur within 25 feet of an adult.
“Children should never be in water without adults watching them,” he said. “If you have a toddler, that child shouldn't be in water without what we call touch supervision. You need to be in hand'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.”
Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach Manager at Cook Children’s, said it’s important for parents to realize that at least 50 percent of the drownings might have been prevented with layers of protection.
Drowning prevention around and away from the pool begins with adult supervision. Adults should be in arm’s reach of the child while in the water and at any pool parties, assign a “water watcher to know how to swim.” Other steps parents can take at home to help protect their children from drowning once they get out of the pool include:
- Never take your eyes off of your child until you know he or she is safely in the house or car. Many of the drownings seen at Cook Children’s take place after children take off their life jackets and then jump back in the water while parents are getting ready to leave and don’t realize what has happened.
- Use alarms that can be put on children's wrists: These are child friendly bracelets that a child wears, and if submerged in water, an alarm goes off inside for the caregiver to act quickly.
- Install four-sided fences with self-latching gates. Four-sided isolation fencing around home pools could prevent 50 to 90 percent of childhood drowning and near-drowning incidents, according to studies.
- Make sure fences are at least 4 feet (preferably 5 feet) high with a self-closing/self-latching gate that only opens out.
- Reroute any doggie doors that have direct access to the pool area.
- Pool and spa covers should be sturdy enough to support the weight of a child or multiple children.
- Latches should be properly locked whenever you aren’t using the area.
- Make sure your locks to go outside are out of your child's reach.
- Use door and window alarms. Make sure to alarm any windows and doors that open directly into the pool area. Pool surface alarms are also a great option to alert if you if anyone falls into the pool. You can even put an alarm on your child that will alert if you he or she is submersed.
- Update pool drains and cleaning systems.
- Make sure your children know they aren’t allowed to swim without you being present.
“As the adult, you have to be actively watching at all times, counting even. OK, there are five kids in this pool. How many heads do i see? Kids will drown right in front of you,” Dr. Warmink said. “It's not a long process of them screaming and crying. It's just one second they are fine and the next second they are under.”
Take it from Dr. Warmink. Unfortunately, he’s had plenty of experience.