What education measures help prevent drowning?

Updated: Jun 19, 2019
  • Author: G Patricia Cantwell, MD, FCCM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Prevention strategies are of paramount importance. Community education is vital in promoting water safety, injury prevention, and CPR initiatives. Unfortunately, community activism often occurs only following a tragic death or injury.

Toddlers must not be allowed near bathrooms or buckets of water without immediate adult supervision. Children must never swim alone or unsupervised, and children younger than 4 years and any children who are unable to swim must be closely monitored by a responsible adult. Adults must be well aware of their own and their children's swimming limits.

Appropriate barriers must be used around pools, wading pools, and other water-containing devices at home. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has published model regulations regarding pool fencing. Homeowners can stress that all caregivers know CPR, have immediate access to a poolside phone, and ensure their children know how to call 911. Most pool-related drownings occur within the first 6 months of pool exposure. Additionally, the absence of proper pool fencing is reported to increase the odds of pool-related drowning by three to fivefold. [13]

Children must be taught safe conduct around water and during boating and jet- or water-skiing. Use of alcohol or other recreational drugs is not appropriate when swimming or engaging in other water sports, as well as when operating or riding in motorized watercraft. Appropriate boating equipment should be used, including personal flotation devices, and all boaters must understand weather and water conditions.

Parents are strongly urged to learn CPR and water safety training in case rescue and resuscitation are needed. A 1990 study found that 86% of pool owners supported voluntary CPR training, while 40% of those surveyed supported mandatory training. [68] The American Academy of Pediatrics updated the policy statement in 2010, focusing on water safety as well as drain-entrapment hazards, dangers of inflatable pools, and benefits of swimming lessons. [69]

For patient education information, see the Public Health Center and Environmental Exposures and Injuries Center, as well as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Drowning.

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