Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children, with nearly 1,000 deaths in children ages 20 and younger in 2017 alone, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recently, the State of Texas has the highest number of drownings with a close follow up in California and Arizona.

Children ages 0-4 and adolescent boys are at the highest risk of drowning. Young children are most likely to drown in the bathtub or after accidentally falling into the water. Adolescent boys are 4 to 6 times more likely to drown than girls mostly because they tend to be overconfident and less risk-adverse. Alcohol should be avoided.

Teaching your child to swim doesn’t necessarily make him/her safe in the water, but swimming lessons over the age of 1 will decrease their likelihood of drowning by 88 percent. Unlike the movies, drowning children rarely thrash about but rather slip quietly under the surface of the water. Drowning is silent and only takes a minute. Different methods of protection can be put into place that will create as close to a fail safe system as possible.

Supervision is the best method, but in 69 percent of the drownings, supervision wasn’t in place when the accident occurred. Remember, infants and children can drown in inches of water.

Tips for pool owners

• Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool. Have an identified “water watcher” who doesn’t answer the phone, read, etc.

• Completely fence the pool. Install self-closing and self-latching gates. Position latches out of reach of young children. Keeping all doors (including doggy doors) and windows leading to the pool area secure to prevent small children from getting to the pool. Effective barriers and locks are necessary preventive measures, but there is no substitute for supervision.

• Pool covers and alarms have not been shown to reduce drownings.

• Don’t use the pool if drain covers are missing. Long hair, arms, legs and fingers can get stuck in the drain’s current and pull a child under water.

• Place tables and chairs well away from the pool fence to prevent children from climbing into the pool area.

• Keep toys away from the pool area because a young child playing with the toys could accidentally fall in the water.

• Remove steps to above ground pools when not in use.

• Have a telephone at poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a telephone elsewhere. Keep emergency numbers at the poolside telephone.

• Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

• Keep rescue equipment by the pool.

• Life jackets, not flotation devices, can save lives.

Even though supervising children in the pool can be challenging, you will feel better knowing that these security measures are in place to help make the time in and around your pool as safe as possible.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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