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A Watchful Eye Best Way to Prevent Drowning

June 17, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio – School is out and children are flocking to pools and other bodies of water, looking for ways to have fun and stay cool. But as the weather heats up, experts warn there will be increased numbers of drowning deaths and injuries.

In Ohio, that has already proven to be the case, with several deadly incidents involving children. Pediatrician Dr. Mike Gittelman at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Comprehensive Injury Center, says it's crucial to keep a close eye on your child, no matter how shallow or deep the water.

"Unfortunately, drowning is incredibly quick. Within 60 to 90 seconds, you can actually have a significant event – and so, that's why anytime they are near water, you need to know exactly where they are."

Blow-up pools, "slip-and-slides" and water tables are popular options to keep younger kids busy in the backyard. Gittelman warns that supervision is always needed – regardless of the water depth. For homes that have swimming pools, he notes that four-sided fencing, which isolates a pool from a house, has been proven to substantially decrease drowning injuries.

While children under age five more commonly are injured in backyard pools, teenagers typically have problems in natural sources of water, which often are difficult to navigate. His best advice for parents is to tell their kids to stay away.

"The river has a significant current that they might not know about, that makes it so it's not as easy for them. Or a reservoir, which at one time has a certain amount of depth and now it's rained a lot, and it's a lot deeper than what their expectation was."

When in a natural body of water, Gittelman says flotation devices such as water rings, "noodles" and other swimming aids are not substitutes for a life-jacket.

Even if kids know how to swim, adds Gittelman, that does not mean they will not drown. He cautions that an attentive adult who knows how to swim should always be present when children are in the water, and that parents and caregivers should also know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and 19 in the United States.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH