Nurses Know: Awareness can reduce threat of kids drowning

Drowning, the quiet killer

As I was writing this column I heard another story on the news about the near drowning of an 18-month-old child.

Fortunately, the child survived. But that’s not always the case.

Three children between the ages of 1 and 4 drown every day in the U.S., making it the leading cause of accidental death in that age group.

Moreover, for each death there are up to four children that nearly drown, often causing permanent brain damage.

Here’s another terrifying statistic:

Florida ranks first nationally for drowning among 1- to 4-year-olds. That’s three times the national average with enough children drowning annually in the Sunshine State to fill several preschool classrooms.

Parents should never forget that a child between ages 1 to 4 is an explorer, using their new skills of walking, reaching and climbing to learn about their environment.

As a result, they can put themselves at great risk.

For instance, a toddler may try to reach for a colorful toy floating in a pool. The parent may be distracted and the child can fall into the water, sinking quickly and quietly to the bottom.

The sad truth is that most children drown in home swimming pools while a distracted parent was supervising.

The following are some important safety tips to avoid tragedy:

• Never leave a child unattended in or near a swimming pool, including wading pools.

• Designate a water watcher who knows how to swim and also knows CPR.

• Stay within arm’s length of the child and keep your eye on them.

• Avoid distractions such as talking on the phone, reading, texting and drinking alcohol.

• Install pool fences and include gate latches that self-close and self-latch and other safety devices to prevent access.

• Clear the pool and deck of toys immediately after use so the child is not tempted to enter a pool area unsupervised.

• Items such as water wings and mattresses are not safety devices and should not be treated as such.

• Empty wading pools after they are used and remove ladders from above-ground pools.

• Learn CPR because every second counts. Within 5 minutes of drowning brain damage will occur.

• Keep a phone handy for emergencies.

Following these rules can make the difference between life and death.