According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year in the United States an average of 390 children under the age of 15 die as a result of a pool or spa-related drowning. Additionally, about 75 percent or 293 of the reported fatalities involved children younger than five years-old. Pools are a great source of fun and refreshment in the summer months but they can also be very dangerous and occasionally, deadly, especially for children—as we have seen in local news reports.
Pool submersions involving children happen quickly and often silently. “A child can drown in the short time it takes to answer the phone,” said Carey Goltzman, MD, Chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. “The damaging effects of being submerged in water result from the loss of oxygen to the brain and can occur within minutes. Although resuscitation may take place quickly, it does not always mean the victim will escape without significant brain injury or lasting neurological effects.”
As a regional resource for advanced care in the Hudson Valley—a tertiary referral center that is often the receiving hospital for drowning victims in the region--Westchester Medical Center joins safety organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in reminding everyone that it only takes a moment for a child to drown. Knowing how to minimize the risk of drowning is just as important as knowing what to do for a drowning victim.
Dr. David Markenson, Westchester Medical Center’s Medical Director for Disaster Medicine and Regional Emergency Services and National Chair, Scientific Advisory Council at the American Red Cross said, “Drowning is absolutely preventable. Unfortunately, when drowning does occur it can cause life-long disability and all too often, death. “In almost every case preventative measures including the presence of a trained lifeguard along with proper supervision by someone able not only to recognize and aid a swimmer in distress but to perform if needed CPR, first aid and resuscitation for aquatic fatalities, can drastically reduce the swimmer’s risk of drowning.”
Below are some nationally publicized recommendations from organizations like the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and the CPSC which can help minimize a child’s risk of drowning and keep them safe this summer and for the rest of their lives. “When is comes to drowning, prevention and supervision is the best medicine,” added Dr. Markenson.
- Never leave children unsupervised around a swimming pool, even if they know how to swim.
- Be prepared, make sure your family and other pool users learn CPR and first aid and know how to get help in an emergency. This information can be found at http://www.redcross.org and in the Red Cross smart phone First Aid app.
- During gatherings at or near a pool, appoint an adult—one who knows how to swim to watch young children.
- Install barriers such as fences, gates, walls and electronic pool covers or sensors. Doors that lead from the house to the pool area should be locked and alarmed.
- Steps and ladders leading from the ground to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
- In addition, teach your child pool safety rules and make sure they are followed, such as no one swims alone, stay away from drains, no loose/dangling items and no diving (if appropriate).
- Empty and turn over all water containers and small plastic pools after use.
- Have weak swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket—do not rely on water wings or inflatable toys.
- Remove any pool toys from the pool or hot tub area when the area is not in use.
- Teach your children how to swim and how to recognize a swimmer in distress. Many local organizations in every community offer Red Cross swimming lessons and pool safety classes all year round.
- If a child is missing, check the pool first and have someone call 911. Seconds count in preventing death or disability and 911 can be cancelled.
- When swimming in rivers and lakes only swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard, know your own abilities, be aware of the waters depth and current and be prepared for the unexpected.
- Outfit your pool or hot tub with appropriate safety equipment. At a minimum, pool and hot tub owners should keep the following equipment readily accessible: Phone with emergency information posted near it, First aid kit, Emergency signal, such as a whistle, Multiple life jackets in various sizes, reaching device (pool owners) and throwing device (pool owners).