by Rob Cox, September 10, 2012
Factors Influencing Drowning Rates
According to the CDC, about ten people per day die in the U.S. from drowning. Of these, two are under the age of 14, or about 20%. Drowning currently ranks fifth among leading causes of unintentional injury.
Not all drowning occurs in swimming pools, natural settings can account for the largest drowning numbers - except for the 1-4 year old age group. Among children aged 1-4, a swimming pool was where most drownings occurred. For people 15 years and older, 57% occurred in natural water settings.
What have we learned? The CDC and other groups have been compiling data for years now on accidental drownings in the United States. Fortunately, the CDC has not kept simply to reporting the data, but has provided analysis and recommendations related to their findings.
Factors Influencing Drowning Rates:
AGE: Drowning occurs among all age groups, but the 1-4 year old group has the highest percentage of drowning (30%, of all unintentional injuries). Drowning becomes less common the older you become, and decline rapidly for people over 35 years old. But among youngsters age 1-4, drowning is the leading cause of death, and in the 5-14 age group, it is the second largest killer.
SEX: Are girls and women just more careful? Are they keeping their hair dry? Maybe boys and young men, full of spirit, are placing themselves in harm's way more often. Whatever the reason, males account for 80% of the drowning deaths in America. Males also have the highest injury rate around pools, and sadly, most of the diving accidents that occur. Interestingly, men of all ages report greater swimming ability than women. Or maybe they think they can swim better than they really can?
RACE: Minority children aged 5-14 run a 300% greater risk of accidental drowning than white kids. Drowning rates for African Americans and Hispanics are also higher in all other age groups. Part of the problem includes availability of pools and short swim seasons. Among all racial groups, African Americans report the most limited swimming ability.
SWIMMING SKILLS: Over a third of adult Americans report that they consider their swimming skills poor, or they classify themselves as not knowing how to swim. This would certainly also be true of most, if not all of the 1-4 year olds who drown. Organized swimming lessons, even just 1 or 2 courses, can prevent drowning. Some classes are even designed specifically for that purpose!
LACK OF BARRIERS: A barrier to entry is sometimes thought of as a bad thing, but in pools we talk about Layers of Protection. A 4-sided pool fence can reduce drowning risk by as much as 83% over a 3-sided pool fence (with the 4th side being the house). Having a safety pool cover for winter and door alarms and a pool alarm during summer can significantly increase your "Barriers to Entry".
LACK OF SUPERVISION: Proper supervision, close supervision. Without chatting, texting, reading, sleeping, etc. Without over-reliance on lessons, lectures, lifeguards, life jackets or Larry, your nephew who said he'd watch your child while you ran inside for a minute. Drowning among the 1-4 age group can also occur in bathtubs, ponds, spas, even a 5 gallon bucket, and even in the presence of lifeguards.
TOP 5 TAKEAWAYS:
As mentioned earlier, the statistics on drowning and near-drowning collected by the CDC and other organizations over the years has led to some important discoveries about how to prevent such tragedies.
1. Swimming Skills: Taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children aged 1-4 years. Learning to tread water and stay afloat can be taught in just a handful of short swim sessions. Adult non-swimmers should take a course designed for water survival skills, even if they don't plan on becoming regular recreational swimmers.
2. Learn CPR: CPR performed by bystanders has saved many lives and improves outcomes in drowning situations. The more quickly CPR is started, the better chance for survival. There's no time to Google it ~ learn now by going to the American Red Cross take-a-class site for their online course. CPR has changed in recent years, so even if you took it in college, it's time to refresh your lifesaving skills.
3. Life Jackets Reduce Risk: Half of all boating deaths could be prevented by this one simple step. Around pools, USCG approved life vests or swim aids are your best protection against accidental drowning. For toddlers, swim suits with built in flotation pads can add a valuable layer of protection when you both are around the pool. Air filled water wings, foam pool noodles, or inflatable rafts are no substitution for proper life jackets.
4. Avoid Alcohol: The CDC found that among adults and adolescents, alcohol use is involved in nearly 70% of deaths associated with water recreation. Effects of alcohol are heightened by sun and heat. A large number of these are boating accidents, but many adult pool drowning victims have a measurable blood alcohol level. It is also attributed to most diving accidents, the ones that result in spinal cord injuries.
5. Don't Hyperventilate: Sometimes swimmers play the game of who can hold their breath the longest underwater, and some kids will hyperventilate before swimming underwater. This can cause them to pass out or black out for a time, long enough to drown. This is also known as "Shallow Water blackout", and it is very dangerous.
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