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Swimming Lessons Don’t Up Drowning Risk

March 3, 2009

It seems a little silly to report swimming lessons don’t increase the risk of drowning, but that’s the take home message from a new study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Why the clarification? Some people have suggested giving swimming lessons to very young children might actually backfire by causing parents to become less vigilant when these kids are around water.

The investigators debunked that theory in a review of children between the ages of 1 and 19 who drowned in various locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, California, Texas, and New York. Among 61 kids age 1 to 4 who drowned, just 3 percent had received swimming lessons. That compared to 26 percent of 134 similar kids who did not drown.

Swimming lessons were also more common in older kids who did not drown, although the findings were not statistically significant and the study notes some of the older kids who did drown were skilled swimmers.

The researchers believe the bottom line is swimming lessons, especially for young children, should be combined with other strategies to reduce childhood drowning. “Because even the best swimmers can drown, swimming lessons are only one component of a comprehensive drowning prevention strategy that should include pool fencing, adult supervision, and training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation,” study author Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH, was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Health, published online March 2, 2009

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