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New Guidelines for Drowning Prevention

More Intervention Needed to Stop Drowning Deaths Among Kids

WebMD Health News

Aug. 4, 2003 -- Drowning was the second leading cause of preventable death in children in the 1990s, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and now the group says that parents and pediatricians need to take more steps to prevent drowning tragedies among children.

The new drowning-prevention recommendations warn parents to be certain that everyone who cares for their child understands the need for constant supervision. AAP statistics show that more than 1,400 children and teens under age 20 drowned in 2000. Many more kids are injured in near-drowning accidents.

Some recommendations for drowning prevention:

  • Never leave young children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas, wading pools, or other bodies of water.
  • Whenever infants or toddlers are in or near water, an adult should be within arm's length.
  • Do not allow young children to go to bathrooms unsupervised, as they can drown in toilets.
  • Parents should teach older children the dangers of jumping and diving into water and to never swim alone.
  • Children should learn how to swim when developmentally ready, usually after age 4.
  • Parents, caregivers, and pool owners should learn CPR and keep a phone and life-saving equipment at poolside.

The group also recommends that all residential swimming pools have a surrounding, four-sided fence that prevents direct access to the pool from the house, which could prevent more than 50% of swimming pool drownings in young children.

The new AAP policy statement on drowning prevention spells out the specific risks for each age group and important steps to take to prevent drowning at each age. Young children are most likely to drown at home while older children are more at risk in natural bodies of water and swimming pools. In addition, the policy statement says that pediatricians should counsel older children about the dangers of alcohol and other drug consumption during water activities, and the AAP also encourages adolescents to learn CPR.

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