Protect Your Kids from Drowning

Dr. Rick Place

Dr. Rick Place is Medical Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Inova Children’s Hospital (at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, VA). Dr. Place is a board certified physician in both Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics.

Northern Virginia parents and caregivers: With the heat of the D.C. summer upon us, did you know these sobering facts about kids and drowning?

  • In Virginia, drownings are the leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of death in all children.
  • For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal injuries.
  • Many of those who survive are severely brain damaged.

Yes, the statistics are scary – so it’s always a good idea to make sure you are familiar with water safety and drowning facts.

Most drownings occur:

  • In poorly supervised pools with a lack of fencing
  • At home with one or two parents who are out of sight for less than 5 minutes
  • With children who have not learned to swim

Several years ago, I resuscitated a little girl who was rescued from the bottom of a pool at a party with many adults and other children in the pool – which highlights another fact: MOST DROWNINGS ARE SILENT.

When a child is drowning, they do not have the ability to call for help or wave their arms.

How to protect kids from drowning

  1. First and foremost, never let a child swim alone and never take your eyes off them while they are in the water.
  2. Ensure your pool has barrier fencing with self-latching gate. This is the single most effective measure to prevent unattended drownings.
  3. Allow your children to swim ONLY in the presence of lifeguards.
  4. Make sure U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets and life preservers are poolside and available for your children to wear on any boat they board.
  5. Keep pool floats stored away when they are not in use.
  6. Never let a child who cannot swim, use a pool float unattended. They can easily overturn and trap a child.
  7. Teach your child to swim! Two-thirds of drowning victims cannot swim.
  8. Finally, all caregivers should be trained in CPR in the event that the worst happens.

What should you do if you rescue a child from drowning?

Call 911 and begin basic life support immediately on any unconscious drowning victim. If the child is not breathing, they may be revived with an initial FIVE rescue breaths.  If unsuccessful, give 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths; repeat continuously until breathing resumes or help arrives.

Children in obvious respiratory distress should be transported by ambulance to the nearest medical facility.

Other children gag and choke but seem to recover quickly. These children should be watched closely over the next several hours for the development of respiratory symptoms or chest discomfort.

What about “delayed drowning”?

There is no such thing; the terms “dry drowning” and “delayed drowning” are not considered true events by medical experts. Children destined to become sick from drowning will universally exhibit symptoms within 4-8 hours. If there are no symptoms within this time frame, children can be considered a “water rescue” and are safe.

Play it safe: Learn CPR

Inova offers a variety of CPR and First Aid classes in Northern Virginia.

Inova Pediatric Emergency and Urgent Care

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