The 4 things parents get wrong about kids and drowning
Nearly 800 kids drown each year in the United States, according to the latest analysis from Safe Kids Worldwide, and summertime is the deadliest season.
Using the latest numbers available, the new report shows more than half of 2014's fatal child drownings involved children under the age of 5. Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4. It persists as a leading cause of death for kids all the way up through their teen years.
"Two-thirds of fatal drownings occur in four months of the year," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "It's no surprise: May, June, July and August."
And location of the tragedy varies with age. Children younger than 12 months are more likely to drown at home — in the bathtub for example. The pool is the bigger threat for children 1 to 4 years old, and children aged 5 and older and more likely to drown in open bodies of water such as ponds, lakes and rivers.
But the casualty count has the potential to be greatly reduced. The research points to a number of persistent misconceptions that, if eliminated, can keep our children from becoming victims.
Misconception 1: I will hear my child when he/she starts to drown.
In a survey of parents from Safe Kids Worldwide, nearly half said that if a child was drowning nearby, they would be able to hear the child struggling.
"In fact, drowning is silent," Carr said. "Small children don't have the strength to keep their head above water, so they are underwater. You're not going to hear a sound."
Misconception 2: Nothing bad will happen if I take my eyes off my child for a couple minutes.
Once a child begins to struggle, parents may have less than a minute to react, Safe Kids Worldwide said.
About a third of surveyed parents said they left their child at a pool for two or more minutes without supervision.
It's advised to keep young children within arms' reach of an adult at all times, and older children should swim with a partner.
Misconception 3: If there is a lifeguard present, my child's safety is guaranteed.
"A lifeguard's job is to enforce the rules ... but they're not there to supervise," Carr said.
Lifeguards can't watch every child individually at all times, even though more than half of the surveyed parents think that when present, a lifeguard is the main person responsible for supervising their child.
Safe Kids Worldwide created a downloadable Water Watcher card that signals who's responsible for the kids in the water at any given time.
Misconception 4: If my child had swim lessons, drowning is not a threat.
An analysis of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 47 percent of the older victims reportedly knew how to swim.
Swim lessons are essential, but skill level varies, Safe Kids Worldwide noted.
"We have to understand that swimming ability can develop over time, and make sure that children not only know how to swim, but they know swim survival skills," Carr said.
Parents at Five Star Swim School in Eatontown are encouraged to get their children in the water as soon as possible. The facility starts accepting students at just 6 months of age and helps them get comfortable with the pool until true lessons begin at 2-and-a-half years old.
"They start learning what to do if they fall in the pool, how to get themselves back out," general manager Paige Miller said. "They learn how to roll over and float on their backs so that they can breathe."
The Red Cross says children should be well educated on these five water survival skills:
- Step or jump into water over their heads.
- Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit from the water.
- Swim 25 yards to the exit.
- Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using a ladder.