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Danger Below the Surface: Identifying Where Children Drown

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Those strategies, according to a 1993 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), include:

  • Constant supervision for infants and children when they are in or around any water;
  • Installing four-sided fences with self-closing latches around residential pools;
  • Using personal flotation devices when riding in a boat, fishing, or playing near a river, lake, or ocean;
  • Teaching children never to swim alone or without adult supervision;
  • Teaching children, especially teens, about the dangers of alcohol and drug consumption during aquatic activities;
  • Stressing the need for parents, caretakers, and teens to learn CPR;
  • Teaching all children aged 5 and older how to swim;
  • Prohibiting children under 16 from operating a personal watercraft.

"Kids and water really spell potential danger. Just because a child may have learned to swim does not mean they are drown-proof. That is still a misconception among parents," Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, tells WebMD. Smith is the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Children's Hospital at Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP's Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention.

"Really through the teenage years you need to have supervision of children around water," says Smith, adding that there is no magic age when a child automatically should be allowed to be on his or her own. "It depends on maturity, strength, ability to think through a challenge, and coordination."

"Each of these drownings is a tragedy, and for the most part they are largely preventable," says Brenner. "With some precautions and some increased awareness of the risks that any body of water presents, we can go a long way towards preventing these tragedies."

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