Water Safety Efforts For Children Decreases Drowning Incidents

Education campaigns aimed at reducing drowning by children are paying off. In 1993, public health officials estimated 3,623 kids and teens aged 19 and under were admitted to the hospital after almost drowning. In 2008, only 1,781 children were admitted for the same reason.

“We found a significant decline in the rate of pediatric drowning hospitalizations, which is consistent with documented decreases in pediatric deaths from drowning,” said Stephen Bowman, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, who led the study.

Bowman and his fellow researchers used a national database on eight million people admitted to about 1,000 hospitals annually to estimate the total number of kids in the US hospitalized for near-drowning, reports Genevra Pittman for Reuters Health.

Over the study time period, important public and private efforts to reduce the risk of drowning in children have been promoted. The installation of four-sided pool fencing, the use of personal flotation devices, and the endorsement by public health authorities of childhood swim lessons.

Reductions in bathtub drowning hospitalizations, most common among children younger than 4, may be a result of targeted injury prevention efforts aimed at parents and caregivers of young children that encourage vigilance in supervision and offer education on the risks of infant bathtub seats.

Researchers also estimated that the number of children who died after being hospitalized fell from approximately 359 in 1993 to 207 in 2008, this number does not include those in the study who drowned and were pronounced dead before making it to a hospital.

Bowman noted that the data can´t tell the story of what happens to kids who survive once they´re released from the hospital — which would be important to understanding the true burden of drowning and near-drowning incidents in US kids.

Head of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children´s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Gary Smith, explained the findings can´t attribute the decline to any one specific public health intervention, but they suggest that parent education efforts are starting to work.

“This trend, this was really remarkable,” Smith, who is also the president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, and was not involved in the new study told Reuters.

Researchers concluded that parents will always need to stay vigilant when kids are playing around water. “Leaving children unattended even for a moment around a swimming pool, especially toddlers — it´s just a recipe for a disaster. It´s something we can´t reinforce enough,” Bowman said.

“Parents need to make sure they´re not leaving kids alone, whether it´s in the bathtub, or in open water around rivers or lakes, or in a backyard swimming pool.”

The study will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics.

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