Water Safety
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Water Safety and Drowning Prevention

"Water is dangerous at any depth. It takes just seconds for a child to drown."

In Utah, drowning was the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children aged 0-17. Over the last five years (2011-2015) in Utah, there were 42 drowning related deaths for children aged 0-17. More than half (52%) of these drowning deaths occurred among children 0-4 years of age.

Drowning risk varies by a child’s age and location. Data over the last 10 years (2007 to date) showed approximately:

  • 43% of child drowning deaths occurred in open bodies of water, such as a river, stream, canal, lake, or reservoir.
  • 30% of child drowning deaths occurred in a pool. The majority of these deaths occurred among children younger than eight years of age.
  • 19% of child drowning deaths occurred in a bathtub. The majority of these deaths were among infants less than a year of age.

There are several common scenarios among Utah child drowning deaths:

  • Toddlers (ages 1-4) wandering off. The most common scenario involves an under-supervised child wandering off during a weekend family gathering – with several adults present but none designated as the official “child watcher” – and falling into a body of water (like a pool, stream, pond, creek, or irrigation ditch). In some cases, the child was thought to be indoors but had managed to get out of the house undetected.
  • Teens (frequently males) swimming with friends at a reservoir or lake. Many of these deaths are “witnessed” drownings, where friends or family members see the victim go under the water and are unable to rescue them. Overestimating swimming abilities and peer pressure to take risks are thought to be factors in these deaths.
  • Infants left unattended in bathtubs. These drownings also include cases where an infant was left alone in a bathtub with an older brother or sister.

Nationally, two-thirds of fatal drownings occur each year between May and August. New research, conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide revealed misconceptions that are giving families a false sense of security and leading to these far too common tragedies. These misconceptions, if left unchallenged, will increase children’s risk of drowning. The full report can be found at http://ow.ly/bKpS30bOSDW.

Drowning can happen even when a child is being supervised. Many people don’t realize that drowning is often silent. This means someone who is drowning is not able to shout for help or grab onto something.  When they come above water they only have time to inhale and exhale. It is important especially for parents of young children to be able to identify signs of a drowning child. 

Signs of drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus or closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Vertical in water – not using legs
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to roll over on the back or trying to swim but not making headway
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

Keeping your child safe is your number one priority.  Water is dangerous at any depth. It can take just seconds for a child to drown. When can be a lot of fun, but there are some things you can do to make sure your child stays safe.

Tips to keep kids safe in the water:

  • Children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Make sure to prevent children from gaining access to areas of the house where water is present (i.e. bathtubs, sinks, and toilets). Never leave an infant or young child alone in the bathtub or with “older” siblings.
  • When not in use, drain and keep kiddie pools and buckets out of reach from children.
  • Actively supervise children in and around bathtubs, pools and open bodies of water, giving undivided attention, and watching for signs of drowning.
  • If several adults are present, designate a "child watcher" to watch children in and around the water. Adults should take turns so everyone can have fun and stay safe.
  • No matter where children might swim, teach them to always swim with an adult. Even older, more experienced swimmers should swim with a partner. Teach kids when they are young that they should never go around water without an adult present.
  • Warn teenagers of the risks of overestimating how well they swim. Even experienced swimmers can drown.
  • Learn CPR. Being able to perform CPR if needed is an essential skill that every parent should have to be able to use if needed. 
  • Wear a life jacket. Especially out in open water a life jacket will help give children and adults extra support in the water. Even expert swimmers should wear a life jacket.
  • Have everyone wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on a boat or during water sports. Children should also wear a life jacket when near open bodies of water.
  • If you are having a hard time locating your child, check areas where they might gain access to water first.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector aboard houseboats.
  • Never dive into unknown or shallow waters.
  • Enclose pools and hot tubs with self-closing and locking gates/fences.