Drowning Top Cause of Injury Deaths in Kids 1-4

CDC: Men Four Times More Likely Than Women to Be Drowning Victims

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012 -- Although the death rate for drowning in the U.S. has gone down in the last decade, drowning leads to more deaths among young children aged 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects, a new report from the CDC reveals.

Between 2005 and 2009, the death rates from accidental drowning were higher among children under 4 years of age than for any other age group, the report shows. About half of these deadly incidents in young children took place at swimming pools.

Kids under 4 also had the highest rate of nonfatal drownings, meaning injuries from near drowning that may have landed them in the emergency room or in the hospital. Swimming pools were the site of roughly 65% of these near drownings in preschoolers.

Researchers also found that for each year between 2005 and 2009, an average of 3,880 Americans lost their lives to drowning and nearly 5,800 people a year were estimated to have sought treatment in the emergency room because of a near-drowning episode.

The findings appear in May 18 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Kids' Swim Lessons Save Lives

For this study, researchers looked at information on death certificates over a five-year period. They found that of the nearly 3,900 accidental deaths from drowning each year in the U.S., more than half occurred in natural bodies of water, almost 18% took place at pools, and about 10% happened in the bathtub.

Men were four times more likely than women to be the victims of drowning. Men might be at greater risk of drowning because they may overestimate their ability to swim, choose riskier water-related activities, or drink alcohol more often, the report says.

African-Americans had a higher death rate from drowning than whites, Hispanics, or other races.

For near drownings, researchers reviewed data from 66 hospitals in the U.S. They found that children under 4 accounted for nearly 53% of emergency visits for drowning-related injuries, while children aged 5 to 14 were responsible for almost 18% of them.

Alcohol played a role in nearly 22% of all nonfatal drowning injuries among those aged 15 or older.

It comes as no surprise that summertime brought more problems: Almost half of the nonfatal injuries and more than one-third of the deadly drownings happened on weekends between June and August.

The researchers suggest that taking swimming lessons while young can teach life-saving skills to help prevent drownings and water-related injuries. Wearing life jackets, installing four-sided pool fencing, and giving bystander CPR can also help lessen the number of lives lost or injuries.