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Children's Health

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New Guidelines on Kids' Drowning Prevention

American Academy of Pediatrics Says Children as Young as 1 May Get Swimming Lessons

Age for Swimming Lessons: Parents Make the Call continued...

Drowning rates have fallen from 2.68 per 100,000 in 1985 to 1.32 per 100,000 in 2006, the AAP says. Still, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-19, claiming 1,100 young lives in 2006.

According to the AAP, teenagers and toddlers are at greatest risk. "From 2000 to 2006, the highest death rates were seen in white boys 0 to 4 years of age and black male adolescents 15 to 19 years of age," the policy statement says. "In 2008, approximately 3,800 children younger than 20 years visited a hospital emergency department for a non-fatal drowning event, and more than 60% of those children were hospitalized."

No matter what, children cannot be made "drown-proof," Weiss says, so all children need to learn to swim and should be supervised very closely by parents and other adults when around water.

Pools Need Fences

Also, adults who supervise kids should know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the AAP says. In addition, all pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence, isolating it from houses. Taking that step alone can cut downing risk in half, the AAP says.

But some laws governing pool fencing have "dangerous" loopholes, according to the AAP.

Large, inflatable above-ground pools can hold thousands of gallons of water, sometimes may require filtration systems, and often are left filled for weeks, as long as weather is warm.

Because such pools are portable, they often are exempt from local building codes that require fences around pools, AAP says.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 47 deaths of children related to inflatable pools between 2004 and 2006.

"Because some of these pools have soft sides, it is very easy for a child to lean over and fall head first into the water," Weiss says. "These pools pose a constant danger."

While kids younger than age 4 might be ready for swimming lessons, the AAP says it still does not recommend formal water safety programs for tots under age 1. It says in a news release that the water-survival skills of infants are interesting to watch and make interesting videos for the Internet, but that there is no scientific evidence they are effective in preventing drowning.

In addition to considering lessons, the updated policy also outlines dangers of bodily entrapment and hair entanglement in a pool or spa drain, and points out that special drain covers and devices can reduce risk.

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