Unintentional Drowning: Facts, Statistics and Prevention
Between the years 2005-2014, in the United States there was an average of 3,536 unintentional fatal non-boating related drownings annually. That equates to approximately ten deaths by drowning each day. Each year an additional 332 people died from drowning incidents related specifically to boating.
An average of one out of every five people who die from drowning are children age 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, an additional five require emergency department care for submersion injuries that were nonfatal.
Over fifty percent of drowning victims treated in emergency departments require either hospitalization or a transfer to receive more care; this is in comparison to the hospitalization rate for all unintentional injuries, which is about six percent. The injuries sustained from non-fatal drowning incidents can cause severe brain damage, potentially leading to a long-term disability, such as learning impairments, memory problems and even permanent loss of basic life functions, known commonly as being in a permanent vegetative state.Who Is More at Risk?
Males — almost eighty percent of people who die from a drowning incident are men.
Children — the highest drowning rates are amongst children between the ages of one and four. In 2014, among children between the ages of one and four who died from an unintentional injury, one third of that number was due to drowning. Amongst this age bracket, most of the drownings occurred in home swimming pools. More than any other cause, with the exception of birth defects (congenital anomalies), drowning is responsible for the most deaths of children between ages one and four. Among children between the ages of one and fourteen, after deaths in motor vehicle crashes, fatal drowning is still the second leading cause of death related to unintentional injury.
Lack of swimming ability, lack of close supervision when swimming, failure to wear life jackets, lack of barriers preventing access to water when unsupervised, location, seizure disorders and alcohol use are among the main that contribute to the risk of drowning.
Lack of Swimming Ability — Many children as well as adults report that they do not know how to swim. Studies have shown that participating in formal swimming classes can help lower the risk of drowning among children between the ages of one to four.
Lack of Close Supervision — Drowning can occur very fast and very quietly anywhere there is a body of water, for example swimming pools, bathtubs and even buckets. This can take place even when lifeguards are present, particularly when proper training has not been provided, or when there are not sufficient numbers of trained lifesaving personnel for the number of bathers and swimmers.
Failure to Wear Life Jackets - The U.S. Coast Guard in 2010 received 4,604 reports of boating incidents; there were reports of 3,153 boaters having been injured and 672 reports of boaters dying. In 2010, most of the boating deaths - 72% to be exact - were due to drowning. Among these reported incidents, 88% percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
Lack of Barriers — Barriers such as pool fences prevent young children from being able to access a body of water without awareness by caregivers and rescue personnel. A child’s risk of drowning is reduced 83% with a four-sided isolation fence that separates the pool area from the yard and home, in comparison with a three-sided property line fencing.
Location — People of different ages have been reported as being more likely to drown in particular locations. For instance, most children between the ages of one and four drown in home swimming pools. With increasing ages, there is an increase in the percentages of drownings that occur in natural settings like rivers, lakes and oceans. Over half of the non-fatal and fatal drownings that occur among children fifteen years of age and older have occurred in natural water settings.
Seizure Disorders — Drowning is the most common cause of death due to unintentional injury among people with seizure disorders.
Alcohol Use — Among teenagers and adults, alcohol use was involved in as many as 70% percent of deaths associated with water recreation., In addition, alcohol use has been reported in a quarter of the visits to emergency rooms for drowning and around one in every five reports of boating deaths. Coordination, balance and judgment are all influenced by alcohol, and exposure to the sun and heat heightens these effects.
Swimming Skills Help
The risk of drowning is reduced among children between the ages of one and four by taking part in formal swimming lessons. A CDC study on swimming abilities that were self-reported found the following:
- When compared to older adults, younger adults reported greater swimming abilities.
- With an increased level of education, self-reported ability also increased.
Seconds Can Make All the Difference
It is important to learn CPR. Bystanders performing CPR have saved lives, and have improved the outcome for drowning victims. The faster t CPR is started, the higher probability there is of improved outcomes.
Risk Is Reduced with the Use of Life Jackets
Half of all boating related deaths could potentially be avoided with the simple use of a life jacket.
Supervision is Crucial When Around or in the Water
A responsible adult should be designated to supervise young children while in the bath, and all children when they are playing in or around water. “Touch supervision” should be provided by supervisors of preschool children. This means that at all times, designated adults should be close enough to reach the child. Due to how quickly and quietly drowning can occur, adults should not be doing anything else that could be distracting while they are supervising children
Use the Buddy System
It is important always to swim with a buddy. When possible, select swimming sites that have lifeguards available.
Seizure Disorder Safety
If you or a family member have a seizure disorder, one-on-one supervision should be provided in or near water, including in swimming pools. When it comes to bathing, consider showering as opposed to using the bathtub. When boating, always wear a life jacket.
Learn How to Swim
Drowning risks associated with young children can be reduced with formal swimming lessons. However, even if a child has had formal swimming instruction, there should always be careful and constant supervision of children in the water, and barriers such as four-sided pool fencing that prevent access while unsupervised are still crucial.
Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
Sometimes it may take some time for paramedics to arrive, time that can be used effectively with CPR skills, potentially saving a victim’s life.
Do Not Use Foam or Air-Filled Toys as a Safety Device
Objects such as "noodles”, "water wings”, or inner tubes should not be used as an alternative to life jackets. They are toys, and are not designed with swimmer safety in mind.
Before or during boating, water skiing or swimming, avoid alcohol. Certainly avoid alcohol if you are supervising children.
Avoid Hyperventilation or Holding Your Breath for too Long
Make sure that swimmers do not hyperventilate prior to going underwater and that they do not hold their breath for long periods of time. Such actions can cause a swimmer to pass out, a condition referred to as a "shallow water blackout" or a "hypoxic blackout" that could lead to drowning.
What is the Weather Like?
Before boating or swimming, be informed about the local weather conditions and forecast. It is dangerous to swim in strong winds, and in wether with the potential for thunderstorms and lightning strikes.
Install Four-Sided Fencing
Having a four-sided pool fence installed is important. It should separate the pool area from your yard and house. The height of the fence should be at least four feet, with a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens outwards, and with latches out of reach of children. You should also investigate other safety measures such as alarms and automatic door locks that prevent access or alert adults when someone has entered the pool area.
The Pool and Deck Should Be Cleared of Toys
Remove all balls, floats and other toys from the pool and the surrounding area will help prevent children from being tempted to go into the pool area without supervision.
Use Life Jackets that are U.S. Coast Guard Approved
Regardless of the size of the boat, the distance you will be traveling or the swimming abilities of those on board, this is critically important.
Colored Beach Flags
Know what the colored beach flags mean and respect the warnings they represent. This can vary from one beach to the next. Ask a lifeguard or beach personnel for assistance if necessary.
Look Out for Natural Dangers
Keep an eye out for signs of rip currents or dangerous waves. For example, beware of water that looks choppy and discolored, is filled with debris, or is foamy and moving in a channel leading away from the shore. Dangerous currents can also be beneath otherwise calm looking surface water, so be sure to know the hazards of particular bodies of water from local authorities or signage. If caught in a rip current, swimparallel to the shore - once you are free of the current, swim towards the shore in a diagonal direction.
Although drowning deaths are unfortunately common, knowing the facts, statistics, and ways to avoid drowning can significantly reduce such fatalities.