Two teenagers died in New York yesterday. Not from a gun shot, a car crash, or suicides. Rather, they drowned in a popular swimming hole in the Bronx river on a hot summer day. I hate stories like that. Hate hearing it, hate seeing the headline. A total failure for prevention efforts.
I talk about drowning in clinic every day I see patients. I should probably talk about it more often. As I said in my earlier post outlining the new AAP Prevention of Drowning guidelines (& swimming lessons between age 1-4 yrs), drowning is the second leading cause of injury related death in children 1 to 19 years of age. And most drownings in the US happen this time of year. When it’s hot outside, the lake, stream, or pool can look really gooood. Even to those who don’t know how to swim.
I talk about drowning mostly with the parents of toddlers. But I should spend more time talking with adolescents. I get distracted by all the drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll stuff I talk about. Today, I am reminded of the importance of talking with teens about drowning, because of those teens but also this perspective about drowning.
See drowning isn’t what you think it is. It’s not loud and splashy and outrageous. It’s not like it looks in the movies…
Really, it likely doesn’t sound like much at all. A toddler wanders off, slips in the water, and it’s quiet. Or an adolescent can’t keep their chin up long enough and they become submerged, gradually falling to the bottom of a lake.
Until a family member or friend realizes. Then, I think it’s really loud.
Read this incredible perspective, Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, by Mario Vittone. It’s been circulating around the internet like wild fire the last few weeks.
If we all never let our eyes off our children around the water, and we talk to teens about risks–especially if teens use alcohol around the water (if they drink alcohol and swim, the risks sky-rocket), then maybe you and I can prevent a death. Something we’d never know we did. That’s the crazy thing about prevention, it’s like an anonymous donation to the world.
A few things I’ve been thinking about this last week while reading about drowning:
- Toddlers drown more often in swimming pools. Even the tiny pools you buy at drug stores or the inflatable pools many of us have. Listen to Dr Quan, an ER doc at Children’s and drowning expert.
- Adolescents drown more often in lakes or streams.
- Instincts during drowning are not what you think (the characteristics of the instinctive drowning response). Drowning victims may not look like they are drowning. Drowning victims rarely can call out for help as they struggle. They often can’t wave their hands to signal you. Young children may not even have the words to try. Read this summary: On Scene Magazine: Fall 2006 (page 14)
- Young children between the ages of 1 and 4 years of age are highest risk for drowning. NEVER let them out of your sight around water. Even a kiddie pool.
Rebecca Wear Robinson says
Excellent reminder that it’s not just young children who are at risk for drowning. It is such a challenge to balance the joy of being in and near water, not to mention swimming and water sports are lifelong, healthy pursuits, with the need for safety. I’d love to see all children taught water safety from a very young age, but consistently and repeatedly as they go through the teenage years into adulthood. The dangers are different for infants, toddlers, young children and teenagers but the overall message is the same – water can be a lot of fun, but it is a powerful force of nature that requires respect and safety. We teach our children from infancy to fasten their seatbelt, why aren’t we teaching them the same lessons about water safety?
Lara Alexander says
Thank you writing about this. As the mother of a baby boy that loves water – safety is always on my mind. My nine year old cousin asked me yesterday why I still hold on to my son’s body while he is in his floating ring toy, while we spend the day swimming in a river. Life vests and floaty toys are no substitute for an adult watchful eye and safe arms.
Janette T says
For those of us with access to a coast, be careful there too! We almost lost my brother when he was a toddler and he wasn’t even intending to be in the water! One extra high wave was all it took to send him from looking at the pretty pebbles at the waterline to in the water heading for some rocks. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he was wearing a life preserver that strapped on between the legs and had a handle on the back.
Karen Kilian says
As someone who recently took care of TWO near drowning patients in one 10 hr shift at Seattle Children’s ED, I hope parents take heed of Seattle Mama Doc’s warning…..one patient was in a pool and required CPR, the other in a lake and was fished out relatively quickly–but wasn’t wearing a personal flotation device. Both survived without sequela; both very lucky. Drowning IS preventable—but only preventable by choosing safety, closely watching children around any type of water, and by using personal flotation devices…..