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Official Press Release

Contact: Carol Schriber

Date: June 6, 2008

Kids and water:

Drowning is preventable

Este pagina en espanolRALEIGH — The warm days of summer are here, and more and more people are cooling off in pools, ponds lakes and the ocean, or enjoying other water sports like boating. But along with the fun comes a tragic rise in the number of drowning deaths of children, including several in North Carolina over the last week.

A 5-year-old boy drowned in a Hoke County pond last Friday, and a 2-year-old boy died in an above-ground pool in Chatham County on Saturday. And on Tuesday, an 11-month-old baby drowned in his home bathtub in Robeson County, underscoring how quickly a tragedy can occur when children are in or around water.

More than one in four fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boys are much more likely than girls to drown, and racial and ethnic minority children are at significantly higher risk of drowning than white children are.

In 2006, 23 North Carolina children ages 0-17 drowned, and many more suffered water-related injuries (2007 data is not yet available). Near-drowning can cause brain damage that may result in lasting disabilities ranging from memory problems to leaving a child in a permanent vegetative state.

“We can help prevent future deaths by making sure we take the right lessons from these tragedies,” said Leah Devlin, State Health Director.

“The more we study these deaths, the more we realize that drowning is very preventable,” Devlin said. “Over and again, we have found that children who died by drowning were not being supervised. Whether the children who died were toddlers who fell into swimming pools, teenagers having fun in a lake, or babies in bathtubs, adults were not around or were not paying close attention to make sure the children were safe.” Also, in nearly all N.C. drowning deaths, the children were not wearing life jackets, or approved personal flotation devices.

“Drowning is quick and quiet. If you have watch over a child around water, the most important thing to remember is supervision, supervision, and supervision,” Devlin said.

She offered the following CDC tips for preventing drowning and other water-related injuries:

  • Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices for children who are fishing, wading, swimming, or simply playing near water.
  • Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards whenever possible.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Learn to swim and teach children to swim. Be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend swimming classes as the primary means of drowning prevention for children younger than 4. Constant, careful supervision and barriers such as pool fencing are necessary even when children have completed swimming classes.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to improve outcomes in drowning victims.
  • If you have a home pool, install a four-sided fence that completely separates the house and play area of the yard from the pool area. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access or to notify you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use. The presence of these toys may encourage children to enter the pool area or lean over the pool and potentially fall in.
  • Know the local weather conditions and weather forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets when boating, regardless of distance to be traveled, size of boat, or swimming ability of boaters.
  • At the beach, know the meaning of colored beach flags and obey those warnings.
  • At the beach, watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents (water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore). If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore; once free of the current, swim toward shore.





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