How can drowning and near drowning be prevented?

Updated: Jun 19, 2019
  • Author: G Patricia Cantwell, MD, FCCM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

In most instances, drowning and near drowning can be prevented with simple safety measures and common sense. Most children younger than 5 years enter a swimming pool directly adjacent to their home or one with inadequate fencing or unlatched gates or doors. Most children who drown in pools are found silently floating with no screaming or splashing having been noted, were last seen in the home, were missing at least 5 minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning. [24]

Children, especially toddlers, should be supervised at all times when they are around water, including a bathtub, toilet, or bucket full of water. Toilet lids should be left closed, or a child-safe fastener device utilized, when not in use. Baby bath seats do not provide additional safety for unsupervised children. Since 1983, at least 104 deaths and 126 nonfatal immersion incidents involving improperly supervised baby bath seats have occurred in the United States. [24]

Household buckets should be immediately emptied after use and left empty when not in use. Water-containing objects, such as water tanks and cisterns, should have childproof fastenings and solid tops. They should not have items adjacent that afford children easy access.

Adult supervision is essential in the prevention of drowning. Because lapses of supervision are inevitable, other safety precautions must be in place.

All pools should be fenced appropriately. The use of adequate fencing around swimming pools has decreased the number of immersion injuries significantly (by more than one half). The enclosure may be a wall or fence that completely surrounds a pool on all 4 sides, isolating the pool from the remainder of the property. The enclosure must be at least 4 ft tall with no more than 4 in between openings in the fence.

A house or building wall may serve as part of the enclosure only if it does not have any doors or windows through which a child may pass. Doors and gates to the pool should be self-closing and self-latching. Access to the area should be locked when not in use under adult supervision.

Pools, hot tubs, home spas, [108] and saunas not in use may be made safer with appropriately fitted and maintained covers and alarms, but these have not been shown to prevent drowning. Any doors and windows with access to the pool area should remain closed and locked. Toys and other objects attractive to children should not be left in the pool area.


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