Drowning: It Only Takes a Few Seconds. Learn How To Protect Your Child

Drown /droun/
verb: die through submersion in and inhalation of water

It’s summertime! That means warmer temps, BBQs, pool parties and time at the beach. Unfortunately, as pediatricians, we still see kids in our emergency room as drowning victims. I see toddlers around pools without safety gates, and young children at the beach without life jackets. It can happen in an INSTANT and in very little water.

Drowning is silent, quick and kills approximately 1000 kids per year. Drowning is the most common cause of injury among children 1 to 4 years of age. For these young children, drowning is directly related to the lack of barriers to prevent unanticipated or unauthorized access to water. This includes pools, hot tubs/spas, bathtubs, natural bodies of water, or standing water at home, such as buckets, toilets, tubs.

For adolescents, drowning is more likely to occur in natural water settings. For teenagers, their overestimation of swimming skills, under-estimation of dangerous situations, impulsive behaviors, and alcohol or substance use increase the likelihood of drowning.

Parents: Please have a locked door or gate that cannot be opened by your young kids. When you are at the pool or beach, LEAVE your toddlers  in their life-jackets. When they were toddlers, my kids would be eating French-fries by the pool in their puffy life jackets.

Pediatricians: Talk to your parents about water safety, precautions and life jackets during these summer months. I tell my parents it takes very little water fora children to drown…even a small kiddie pool. It takes but a few seconds.

And if you’re having a pool party this summer with young children, have parents watch their own children or ask them to get in the pool with their children. No one should depend on a teen or another person to be the pool ‘lifeguard’ watching a group of toddlers/children. I remember, at the age of 12, we had a barbecue at our house and I looked to see one of the toddlers in my parents’ pool face down in the shallow (3 feet) end.  I rushed in, and my 60-pound frame dragged him out.  Luckily, there was a pediatrician at the party who was able to assess him.  Thankfully, the child began to cough and awoke, as if nothing happened. It was then when my mother put her foot down and told every single parent/guest that came to our home that they are required to be in the pool with their child since her teenager is not a lifeguard!

We hear about it all the time.  Golf champion, Jack Nicklaus’ 17-month old grandchild drowned and died in a hot-tub when he slipped out through the sliding glass door.  Another child who was left unattended by a nanny drowned in the shallow-end of the pool of drummer Tommy Lee.  The other day, I was at a big hotel for a meeting where an outdoor wedding was getting started. There was a beautiful backdrop of a man-made lake, a huge fountain and swans.  From the window, I saw a bunch of toddlers playing hide-and-seek near the water, playing tag and racing each other around the path and the mini-bridge that crossed the lake—without any adult/parent in site.

Most important for parents with young children, please, please, please use something called “touch supervision” when your children are near a body of water.  If you are unable to stretch out your arm and reach your non-swimming toddler/child, then they are too far.

Check out this piece written by a mother ‘My child drowned surrounded by adults: How it happened to us.






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