2006-07-27 / Editorial

Emergency room physicians offer advice on safe swimming for children

Being in and around water is a big part of the summer for many people, but while you and your family enjoy yourselves, the American College of Emergency Physicians has some advice on how to limit the possibility of summer water fun turning deadly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 782 children under the age of 15 died from drowning in 2003, making it the second leading cause of injury-related death for this age group.

"I can't urge parents often enough to keep a close eye on their children when they're around a pool or at the beach or lake," said ACEP President Dr. Frederick Blum. "It takes just a few seconds for a child to get in trouble in the water and put their life at risk." Government statistics show

that most infants drown in bathtubs, toilets, or buckets, while children 1 to 4 years of age typically drown in residential swimming pools. As children get older, according to the CDC, drowning occurs more frequently in lakes and rivers and open areas of water.

"Perhaps the best advice I can give parents is to know the limits of their child's ability to swim and to set firm ground rules for play around the water, and to never leave kids unsupervised," said Blum. "The numbers show that for every child who drowns, more than 10 children are treated in emergency departments for nearly drowning."

To help families safely enjoy their time around water, the ACEP offers the following tips: + Teach your children to swim. + Never swim alone.

+ Only swim in places that are supervised. Never allow children to swim without adult supervision.

+ Never dive into unfamiliar water.

There were nearly 13 million boat registrations in the United States in 2004, with more than 70 million Americans involved in recreational boating, according to government statistics. While use of life jackets has been increasing, the CDC reports that 90 percent of the 676 people who died in boating accidents in 2004 were not wearing any kind of flotation device.

"I can't say it often enough or loudly enough: wear a life jacket," said Dr. Blum. "Just because you know how to swim doesn't mean you can go boating without a life jacket. It should be the first thing that everyone does before going out on the water."

Return to top