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Report: Most Drownings Occur in Open Water

Hidden dangers when swimming in open water include currents, vegetation, rocks and sudden drop-offs. (Pixabay)
Hidden dangers when swimming in open water include currents, vegetation, rocks and sudden drop-offs. (Pixabay)
May 23, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS - As the warmer weather sets in and folks in Indiana look for ways to cool off, a new report highlights the dangers of swimming in open water. The research released Tuesday by the group Safe Kids Worldwide shows about 1,000 children die in drowning accidents each year in the United States, and most incidents involve a lake, river, pond, quarry or other natural water source.

Children's National Health System medical director Dr. Marceé White, a medical adviser for the group, said there are hidden dangers in open water, including currents, vegetation, rocks and sudden drop-offs.

"The water might feel shallow and appear shallow as you're walking out, but then eventually might have a drop-off - and then, you're in deeper water than expected," she said. "Certainly, lakes and oceans and rivers having very limited visibility from the murkiness of the water."

The cool temperature of open water also can decrease a child's ability to swim. To avoid exposure to contaminants that can cause illness, the Indiana State Department of Health has advised folks to avoid swimming if a blue-green algal bloom is present or if the water temperature is high and the water level is low.

The report showed that a drowning scare sends an additional 7,000 kids to emergency rooms each year. White said that's at least 150 families a week affected by such a frightening event.

"Those are the ones that are presenting to the emergency room," she said. "There are still families out there that almost drown and did not present to the emergency room, so, there's a large number of individuals out there that aren't even accounted for."

To ensure safety, the report suggested that parents always watch children with their full attention when they are in or near water, or designate a "water watcher" for larger groups of kids. White offered other recommendations, as well.

"When kids are around open water, they should have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on," she said. "I also would encourage parents to learn water rescue skills and CPR, because those skills can be life saving in the event of a drowning."

She added that people always should swim with a partner, and only in designated swimming areas.

The report is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN