Make the Pool or Lake a Safer Outing this Summer
Know How to Prevent Drowning

By the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital

As the weather warms up and the days get hotter, swimming and other water activities become favorite pastimes for many Arkansas families. Water activities are popular in our state with so many open bodies of water, and many families have pools in their backyards or nearby in neighborhood parks.

Unfortunately, there is also potential for injury and even death if the proper precautions aren't taken around water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the second leading cause of death for children aged 1-14, and males account for nearly 80 percent of all drowning deaths.

Arkansas children ages 6-12 are fifth in the nation when it comes to drowning, and have a drowning death rate that is 41 percent higher than the national average. Last year, Arkansas Children's Hospital saw 23 admissions due to drowning or near-drowning. The patients' ages ranged from 6 months to 17 years old. Drowning is also the most common type of unintentional injury death for people with seizure disorders, with bath time being the highest drowning risk.

All parents and children should learn how to swim, but it is important to know that swimming ability does not make someone drown-proof. Blow-up devices such as "water wings," rafts and toys do not offer the same protection from drowning as a lifejacket, and should not be used in water that is above the waist. Plastic and blow up kiddie pools should be emptied after each use and put away.

People of different ages drown in different places. According to the CDC, most children ages 1- 4 drown in home swimming pools but drowning in open water increases with age, and those 15 years and older drown mostly in these settings.

Everyone should wear a life jacket on or near open water, and it is Arkansas law that children 12 years old and younger wear life jackets on boats. In addition, pools should have four-sided fencing with child proof gates or lifeguards in place. Young children may be attracted to pools with floats or other toys in them. Parents and adults should be careful to remove all toys from pool areas after swim time is over.

Drowning is quick and it's quiet. It's not like the movies where there is a lot of splashing and time to get to the victim, which is why supervision and precaution is so vital.

Drowning typically occurs when a child is left unattended or parents are distracted, even for a brief period of time. Those supervising children should not be engaged in other activities such as reading a book or playing on cell phones. They should have their attention solely on the child swimming.

Alcohol should be avoided when swimming and when supervising children. All caregivers should know CPR, particularly those with pools. Parents should stay within arm's reach of all young children and be near older children who cannot swim or are weak swimmers.

For more information on water safety, visit the Injury Prevention Center