Recent Childhood Drowning Study Highlights Open Water Dangers

A study published this spring suggests that just because children can swim in a pool doesn’t mean they’re safe in lakes, rivers, and oceans.

While the summer swimming season is approaching the end here in Ohio, many vacation destinations are warm year-round. Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program is bringing awareness to a report that highlights the danger of childhood drowning with a specific focus on incidents that occur in lakes, rivers, oceans and other types of open water.

The report explains:

  • Overall, an estimated 1,000 children fatally drown in a single year, 70 percent of them between May and August.
  • An additional 7,000 children end up in the emergency room because of a drowning scare. That means a minimum of 150 families a week are impacted by a tragic or frightening event.
  • Most often those drownings take place in open water. A 10-year-old, for example, is three times more likely to drown in open water than in a pool. Older teens are more than eight times more likely to die as a result of an open water drowning than a pool drowning.
  • Boys are at greatest risk: 8 in 10 open water fatal drowning victims are males.
  • African American children are twice as likely to fatally drown in open water than their white counterparts and American Indian children are at even higher risk.

The report, Hidden Hazards: An Exploration of Open Water Drowning and Risks for Children, reveals that while the number of fatal drownings among children and teens declined over the past seven decades, the downward trend stopped between 2015 and 2016 when there was a 14 percent increase in fatal drownings. The 1,002 drownings in 2016 was the highest number in five years.

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“Just because children can safely navigate water in a pool doesn’t mean they’ll be able to handle the challenges of open water,” explained Torine Creppy, president of Safe Kids Worldwide. “Lakes, rivers, and oceans present a number of potential hazards – such as dangerous drop-offs, strong currents, hard-to-assess distances and limited visibility – that parents need to carefully consider before allowing their kids to wade in.”

Additionally, Lu Yarbrough III, Nationwide’s associate vice president of Enterprise Diverse and Cause Marketing added, “Findings from our research underscore the importance of water safety, a key focus for Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen cause initiative. Our goal is to arm parents and caregivers with the information, tips, and tools they need to take preventative action and ensure children can safely enjoy outdoor activities in and around water.”

Keeping Kids Safe in Open Water

The report also features a variety of tips that parents and caregivers can use to keep children safe in and around open water. These include:

  • Use designated swimming and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
  • Watch kids when they are in or around water. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
  • Make sure children learn to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready.
  • Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in and around open water. Get a life jacket (also called a personal floatation device or PFD) that is appropriate for a child’s weight and the water activity.
  • Learn water rescue skills and CPR. It is important to know how to respond in an emergency without putting yourself at risk. Learning basic rescue skills and CPR may help you save a child’s life.

Download the ReportInfographic and Fast Facts

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