Drowning: The Silent Killer
Drowning could easily be called "The Silent Killer" because when a child goes under water, they seldom make a single sound. Literally, seconds count when a child goes under water:
- 30 seconds to 1 minute -- the airway closes and the child's lips turn blue.
- 1 to 2 minutes -- the child loses consciousness.
- 2 to 5 minutes -- the heart can stop. The child still has a chance of survival if rescued now.
- 5 minutes or more -- permanent brain damage is occurring as each second ticks by.
Each year, water-related injuries send thousands of children to hospital emergency rooms, including East Tennessee Children's Hospital. Diving accidents make up a huge portion of these injuries, while fatigue, lack of proper swim instructions and water vehicle accidents also are factors in the alarming number of incidents that happen each year. It is important to remind parents, grandparents and other caregivers that following simple water safety rules will help keep children safe in any type of water and help minimize a child's risk of drowning.
General Water Safety Rules
Dr. Lise Christensen, pediatric emergency specialist at Children's Hospital, says most accidents could actually be prevented with increased supervision. "Nothing, not even swimming lessons or life preservers, takes the place of good parental supervision around the water. In my career, I have never seen a near drowning that could not have been prevented with better supervision."
Adult supervision is the key to keeping drowning situations from ever happening. Never leave a child alone or unsupervised in or near water at the pool, the lake, the beach or in the bathtub. An accident can occur in seconds, and children can drown in as little as two inches of water. If you must leave even for a moment, even to answer the phone, take your child with you. Make sure adults watching young children near water know CPR and can rescue a child if necessary. CPR is the lifesaver that can truly make the difference in a child surviving a drowning. Children's Hospital's Healthy Kids program offers regular classes on CPR.
Click here for more information or to sign up for CPR classes.
Lake and River Safety Rules
Lakes, oceans and rivers can be a lot of fun for children, as long as you keep safety in mind. When on or near the water, insist that your child wear a life preserver or flotation device. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that 9 of 10 drowning victims are not wearing any type of flotation device. When swimming in natural bodies of water, teach your children these key swimming rules:
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on shallow bottom.
- Don't jump or push others into the water.
- Be prepared for an emergency.
- If you are near another body of water, follow the signs posted. If a sign says swimming isn't allowed, this is there for a reason.
- Never consume alcohol when operating a boat, swimming or during water activities, and don't allow your child to ride on any water vehicle where you suspect alcohol consumption will take place.
Other accidents could include slipping and falling, injuries due to boating or tubing and drowning due to fierce currents. Though your child may be a skilled swimmer, he or she will need the help of an adult in an emergency. Always designate an adult who will be responsible for watching the children in the pool, river, ocean or at a water park. Water emergencies can turn into fatalities in seconds, so having a phone on hand to reach emergency officials can save your child's life. By being an active water watcher, you can protect your children from the dangers of the water.
The above list was adapted from suggestions by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council. Pool, beach and lake activities provide a fun-filled day for the entire family, but precautions are necessary to enjoy all bodies of water safely. For more information about water safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site at www.aap.org, the National Safety Council's Web site at www.nsc.org.