• Ronnie Shalev, MD

Summer Safety: Drowning Prevention

What do Granger Smith and Bode Miller have in common? Unfortunately, their commonality is a sad one...both celebrities lost a child to drowning.

Drowning is the third leading cause of death worldwide but is the second leading cause of death among children. One in five drowning deaths is a child. This is so common that it is scary.

Being around shallow water does not make it safer or less of a drowning risk. It is important to know that children can drown in even one inch of water. Most infant drownings occur in bathtubs and buckets! Toddlers between one and four years most commonly drown in swimming pools. However, many children in this age group drown in ponds, rivers, and lakes. Children older than five years old are most likely to drown in rivers and lakes.

Prevention is the most important intervention. It is estimated that more than 85% of cases of drowning can be prevented by supervision, swimming instruction, technology, regulation, and public education.

Here are some basics to keep in mind...

Guidelines for Drowning Prevention:

  • Learn swimming and water-survival skills and encourage others to do the same, especially children. Make sure to enroll your kids in swim classes!

  • Always swim with other people

  • Never go in the water after drinking alcohol

  • Don’t overestimate your swimming ability

  • Swim in areas with lifeguards

  • Always provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising in or near water

  • Obey safety signs and warning flags

  • Fence in pools on all 4 sides and install a self closing and self latching gates

  • Learn first aid and CPR

  • Always enter shallow or unfamiliar water feet first

Know the Warning Signs!

Signs Someone May Be Drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level

  • Head tilted back with mouth open

  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus

  • Hair over forehead or eyes

  • Not using legs — vertical position

  • Hyperventilating or gasping

  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway

  • Trying to roll over on the back

  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

What You Should Do in a Drowning Emergency?

  • Get the drowning victim out of the water immediately, then check to see if he or she is breathing on their own. If they are not, then begin CPR immediately

  • If someone else is present, send them to call for help

  • Don’t spend precious moments looking for someone to help

  • Don’t waste time trying to drain water from the lungs

  • Concentrate instead on giving rescue breaths and CPR until he or she is breathing on their own.

  • Only when the breathing has resumed should you stop and seek emergency help. Call 911.

  • Once the paramedics arrive, they will administer oxygen and continue CPR if necessary.

I know that as a parent, I often worry about my kids’ safety around the pool. Make sure to stay vigilant, off your phone, and watch for any warning signs. Drowning is preventable!

Stay safe this summer!

-Dr. Ronnie Shalev is a board certified emergency medicine physician and is the Chief Medical Officer at MediBookr