First aid

05 July 2005

Study outlines where kids drown

It's Bathtubs for babies, swimming pools for toddlers, and lakes, ponds and rivers for teens. These are the most likely places for kids under age 20 to drown.

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It's bathtubs for babies, swimming pools for toddlers, and lakes, ponds and rivers for teens. These are the most likely places for kids under age 20 to drown, says a US study.

Thirty-seven percent of children who drowned were ages 1 to 4, and 29 percent were 15 to 19, the researchers say.

The research may help parents keep a closer and age-appropriate eye on their children at where they are most vulnerable, says Dr Ruth Brenner, an investigator with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Brenner and colleagues reviewed more than 1 420 death certificates for drowning victims, starting in 1995.

"We looked at actual copies of death certificates of children from birth to 19 years old and extracted information on the specific site of drowning and used that data to classify the site," Brenner says.

"Of the 1 420 drownings, 57 were in salt water," Brenner says, "So there were some in salt water, but much fewer than in other sites. There were 669 in freshwater, 435 in swimming pools, which includes Jacuzzis, hot tubs and the like, and 125 were at domestic sites - bathtubs and buckets."

"But a fair number of these drownings were at other sites as well," Brenner says. "Among toddlers ages 1 to 4, about 25 percent of the drownings were at freshwater sites like ponds and lakes.

"Our study really didn't look at the reasons for these drownings, and it's something that needs to be examined more carefully," Brenner says. "We know that swimming pools don't seem to carry the same kind of natural risks that freshwater conditions pose, like currents, for instance.

The findings appear in the July issue of Paediatrics.

What to do
While this study details the more likely places children drown, don't let it lull you into thinking that your 4-year-old can be unsupervised in the bathtub.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommendations to prevent drowning should be followed. They include:

  • Swimming lessons for all children over age 5
  • Constant supervision of infants and young children when they are in the bathtub or around other bodies of water
  • Use of personal floatation devices when riding on a boat or playing near a river, lake or ocean
  • Teaching children never to swim alone or without adult supervision
  • Teaching children the dangers of drug and alcohol consumption while swimming or when near water
  • And making sure that adults and teens learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
 

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