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UCLA

Summer Safety:
Prevent Child Drownings

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By Rachel Champeau

Published May 23, 2007 11:23 AM


With summer just around the corner, UCLA emergency physicians remind parents how to prevent drownings and water-immersion injuries involving children. These unfortunate and heart-wrenching events most often occur in the summer months, which are filled with water activities.

"Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death among toddlers ages 1 to 2," said Dr. Larry J. Baraff, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "One of the most preventable causes of death, this tragedy can be avoided with just a few simple precautions."

In the past five years, according to the L.A. County Department of Health Services, there were, on average, 2,200 children younger than 5 years old treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for swimming pool submersion injuries, and 280 pool-related drowning deaths per year. Most of these deaths occurred at home, often in private backyard swimming pools. More than two-thirds of toddler-age children who were found in pools or spas were thought to have been elsewhere in the house, either sleeping or playing.

Parents should follow these 10 basic rules to prevent a child drowning:

1. Never leave a child unattended or with a young sibling in a swimming pool, wading pool, bathtub or hot tub. Even a momentary lapse in adult supervision may result in drowning — a child can drown in just two minutes.

2. Pools should be fenced and gated with self-locking gates. This includes pools located in neighborhoods, apartment complexes, family backyards, etc. Pools must be kept clean, with no covers or rafts that might obstruct one’s view of a child.

3. Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub.

4. Be sure all containers with liquids are emptied immediately after use. Do not leave empty containers in yards or around the house where they may accumulate water and attract young children.

5. Adults and teenagers age 14 and older who supervise children should know CPR. Studies have demonstrated that nearly drowned children given quick CPR suffered no brain damage, while children not receiving such immediate treatment sustained brain damage or death.

6. Children should be given swimming lessons but should not be considered water-safe until they are 14 years old.

7. Keep small children out of bathrooms unless supervised by an adult or older child. Since 1973, more than 500 children have drowned in bathtubs, hot tubs, toilets and five-gallon buckets.

8. Older children and even adults should not swim alone in the ocean or fast-moving rivers.

9. Children should wear bright-colored flotation devices when boating.

10. Don’t mix alcohol, children and water.

Find more water safety tips at the Web site of the Injury and Violence Prevention Program of the L.A. County Department of Health Services.

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