Kids are naturally drawn to water... except at bath time. Participating in swimming, aquatic sports and other water-related activities can provide a lifetime of fun and boost fitness and self-esteem. But only if safety comes first. Unfortunately, drowning is still the leading cause of injury-related death in children 1 to 4 and the second-leading cause in children 1 to 14.
About 4,000 Americans drown every year. Including, sadly, Olympic skier Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter in 2018.
Take steps to prevent drowning.
"It's essential to be aware that anyone could be at risk of a water emergency," said Lauren Buck, MD, trauma surgeon at Medical City Lewisville. "The importance of knowing the proactive and reactive steps that people can take to prevent a drowning can mean the difference between life and death."
Lifesaving swimming safety tips from Dr. Buck:
- Know the conditions of the environment, the water and the physical abilities and limits of each swimmer to anticipate potential problems
- Always designate at least one person to provide constant and direct supervision of swimmers
- Always wear a life vest when participating in water activities on the lake
- Nearly 90% of drowning victims who fell off of a boat weren't wearing life vests
- Have a rescue pole with life hook and life preserver readily available by pools for emergencies
- Utilize fences with locked gates, pool covers and other physical barriers to prevent unguarded access to pools
- A four-sided isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and yard reduces risk of drowning by 83% as compared to a three-sided fence
- Learn hands-free CPR in case of emergency
Dry drowning and secondary drowning.
Dry drowning and secondary drowning are non-medical terms that describe rare water-related complications, more common in children. Here's what you need to know about both.
Dry drowning can happen when a child breathes in water through the mouth or nose and it causes the vocal chords to spasm and close over the windpipe. This can shut off the airways and make it difficult to breathe.
In dry drowning:
- Water never reaches the lungs
- Symptoms are typically noticeable within an hour and may include:
- Difficulty breathing or speaking; rapid, shallow breathing
- Irritability or change in usual behavior
- Persistent cough
- Chest pain
- Untreated cases can lead to other conditions, such as secondary drowning or bacterial pneumonia
- Water is ingested and reaches the lungs, where it can irritate the lining and cause fluid buildup (pulmonary edema)
- Symptoms can be delayed for 24 hours and may include all of those for dry drowning PLUS:
- Changes in skin color
"Both conditions require emergency care," said Dr. Buck. If your child shows any of these symptoms during or following a water event, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.
Drowning is silent.
As we've discussed in a previous blog on water injuries and illnesses, drowning isn't like what we see on TV. A drowning person is unable to call out for help or splash their arms. Read this heart-rending article, written by a mom who nearly lost her toddler during a family pool party, to understand how quickly and quietly drowning can happen. The article provides an interesting insight from hospital staff: They told her the worst case scenarios for child drownings are during family gatherings when there are plenty of people to supervise and everyone thinks someone else is watching the kids.
Click the image to see if you can spot the drowning child.
For help in any medical emergency, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas is here to help. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.