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It’s Silent, Happens Quickly and Is 100% Preventable

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It’s that time of year again in Central Texas when the temperatures stay at or above 100 degrees and the only thing we can do to stay cool is to get in some water. Whether it’s a backyard pool, one of the many community pools around town or out on the lake, water may be a great way to beat the heat – but summer is also when children are most likely to drown. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for kids ages 1 to 4 and the third-leading cause of death for all children. In 2012, there were 74 drowning deaths for kids in Texas. In the Central Texas area, there were 43 drownings or near drownings last year.

Contrary to what we see in the movies or on TV, drowning is a silent event. Children will rarely scream, call out or splash for help, but will likely slip silently beneath the water, even with adults and lifeguards present. Many children who drown are out of sight or missing for less than five minutes, and often they are in the presence of one or both parents. The fact is, a child can drown in just two minutes and can suffer permanent brain damage in only four to six minutes. No one is “drown proof,” regardless of the level of swimming ability.

So what can a parent do? Think of water safety as a layered approach, including: physical barriers with fencing, alarm barriers; active supervision; education and skills building with swim lessons; and proper rescue techniques and CPR training.

Learn to Swim

Formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent in young children. Take swim lessons with your child if you don’t know how to swim. Check with your local YMCA or city recreation office to find swim lessons in your area. And remember, even adults who are strong swimmers should never swim alone.

Supervision

The most effective way to prevent drowning is “touch supervision.” This means an adult is always at arm’s length of a child who is in or near water. During a party or when there are multiple families and children swimming, it’s important to appoint one adult “Water Watcher” whose sole responsibility is to supervise pool activities and watch children who are in the water. Never assume that a lot of adults at the pool equates to a lot of supervision. People drop their guard thinking someone else is paying attention. By assigning a single individual to watch the kids, you can make sure that your children are safe.

Install Multiple Barriers

Pool fences, self-closing and self-latching gates and door alarms should be used in all areas leading to pools and hot tubs. Keep a phone by the pool and call 911 in an emergency. Keep the pool area picked up and clear of toys and other items that might attract an unsupervised child.

Reach, Throw, Don’t Go!

If you see a child struggling in the water at a pool or lake, NEVER jump in to rescue. The panicking victim will likely pull the would-be rescuer down with them. Instead, throw out a Coast Guard-approved flotation device or use a pole to reach the drowning person. Never jump in to save the child.

Learn CPR

Timely and effective CPR can increase the chance of survival of a child who has drowned. Remember to refresh your CPR skills yearly and recertify every two years. Any one of these layers alone may not be enough, but with them all in place we can be sure to splash into the summer fun and the summer heat in a safe way!

It’s Silent, Happens Quickly and Is 100% Preventable
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Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.