Drowning can happen to anyone. But when researchers examined drowning statistics, they found that toddlers and teen boys were the most at risk for accidental drowning. In addition, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes for children 1 to 14.
Despite dramatic images of drowning depicted in movies and television that show a drowning person frantically splashing or screaming, drowning is silent and quick. And it can happen in a bathtub, an inflatable backyard pool, a bucket, or even a pool or beach where lifeguards are on duty.
Toddlers and Water Safety
Toddlers are curious and drawn to water. It’s fun and enticing, and they’re too young to see that water can also be a danger. The physical build of a toddler is also an issue. With heads larger than their bodies, toddlers can’t lift their heads if they go underwater. Also, they can’t speak or call for help when water covers their nose and mouth. But there are strategies to help keep toddlers from drowning.
Important information is readily available about the drowning dangers for young children, especially toddlers. While swimming pools are where most children under the age of four drown, the world is filled with potential drowning hazards for young children. For instance, toilets, bathtubs, and buckets are where children under one most often drown. However, the biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected, unsupervised access to water.
Supervision is the key, and parents are constantly told to watch children when they’re near or in the water and prevent unsupervised accidental access to it.
Teen Boys and Water Safety
There’s less attention on another demographic at risk for drowning: teen boys. There may be multiple reasons teen boys are in danger of drowning. First, teen boys are more likely to swim unsupervised with permission. Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that teenage boys are ten times more likely to experience drowning than females due to greater exposure to aquatic environments, overestimating swimming ability, higher risk-taking behavior, and greater alcohol use.
Another factor is the teenage brain, which is prone to risk-taking without considering the consequences. For example, the underdeveloped teen brain can cause otherwise strong swimmers to not think through their actions and head into an unsafe situation.
How to Keep Your Children Safe (Regardless of Their Age)
Preventing children from drowning requires multiple layers of protection and vigilance. While taking more immediate control with young children may be possible, some precautions apply to all children. The first step is to educate yourself and your children on the best water safety practices to prevent drowning.
Make sure your children learn how to swim and learn water safety. Although swimming lessons and water safety can’t guarantee that a child won’t drown, research has found that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for children between ages one and four. The study also found that formal lessons were associated with an estimated 88 percent reduction in drowning risk for kids under four years old.
Active Adult Supervision
Even if your child knows how to swim and water safety practices, unpredictable circumstances can happen anytime. Without question, laser-focused adult supervision is critical to drowning prevention.
With young children, that means always providing close and constant attention within an arm’s reach. It’s easy to get distracted, so if you’re waiting for an important call or email, designate a water watcher who can provide their undivided attention.
Teens should always swim in areas with lifeguard supervision. And remember, although it may seem as though teens are tuning you out if you try to talk to them about being safe in the water, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening.
Swimming Lessons and Water Safety Instruction
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children one and older. However, each child is different, and it’s important to talk with your pediatrician to determine if your child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. For example, swimming lessons are not recommended for children under one because they’re not developmentally able to learn breathing techniques.
Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, offer low-cost financial assistance and even free swimming lessons.
Make sure you have the skills and equipment needed in an emergency. Learn first aid and CPR. If you don’t know CPR techniques, you can inquire at the Red Cross, hospitals, and local fire departments that offer CPR training. It’s also a good idea to always have access to a cell phone, so you can quickly call 911 in an emergency. Finally, learn how to safely rescue others without endangering yourself, using the “reach and throw” method.
Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.