Warm weather is here and summer is approaching and if mother nature is kind, we’ll have plenty of sun-filled days over the next few months to spend by the pool or at the beach. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when drownings increase. Young children are especially high-risk because of their profound curiosity around water and lack of awareness of danger.
Drownings are preventable deaths but even the thought of them spooks most of us. Often, a drowning event looks, sounds, and appears unlike we’d expect. I’ve written before about the silent danger of drowning, but rather than reiterate the warnings of how to prevent drowning, this year I wanted to find out what you should do if you realize your child is actually drowning. Put a couple thoughts and tools in your hands to know WHAT to do if faced with an emergency.
I tapped Dr. Linda Quan, an emergency attending physician and drowning expert at Seattle Children’s for information on what to do if you come upon a infant/toddler, school-age child or teenager is drowning. Preparing for this can help boost awareness and response if ever you support or discover an infant or young toddler in need for rescue.
Drowning In Infants Is Different Than Older Children
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Because they are so small in stature and often easier to retrieve, drowning prevention for infants and toddlers will always be more important than water rescue techniques. Never leave children alone in or near the water, even for a minute. This includes the bath, a kiddy pool, a pond, a river, lake or larger pool. Close supervision is vital in preventing water-related injuries and drowning. Since it only takes seconds for a child to slip silently under the water, parents need to make sure there is always a lifeguard on duty, or another adult, or a parent watching attentively when children are in or around the water. Dr. Quan says,
For an infant, a child younger than a year old, drowning usually happens in a bath tub, bucket or ornamental pond or water collection device, so rescue does not usually pose a risk to the parent or rescuer. This small child is easily pulled out of the water if within arm’s reach.
What To Do If You Think Your Baby or Toddler Is Drowning:
- If the child is blue or not breathing, immediately give several rescue breaths (mouth to mouth breathing).
- If the child does not take breaths or respond on his own, start CPR (chest compressions with ventilations).
- After several rounds of CPR, call 911 if they have not been called yet. The video below gives a quick overview of infant CPR. You can also check out this article for more information.
To learn more about drowning and water safety, click here.
Tessa Curtis says
Thank you for posting this as a reminder to all of us the importance of water safety! The Woodinville rotary club (and many others) is heavily involved in a water safety program called Josh the Otter. The program visits elementary schools to educate children and adults worldwide about water safety through the utilization of drowning prevention campaigns & early childhood water safety training. Their vision is to eliminate drowning through water safety education and awareness, which will be attained by creating a generational change in the way children and adults perceive bodies of water. Songs and characters are utilized to help kids remember what to do if they find themselves in water where they are struggling. It is a great program and would recommend any parent wanting to have the program visit their school to reach out! https://www.joshtheotter.org
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Tonja Janette says
Hi Dr Swanson
Just curious about thoughts on what you need to do if you come upon a school aged child or teenager (or even an adult) who is drowning when rescue does pose a risk to the rescuer? Such a scary scenario, but one that I’d be interested in hearing more on. Thank you!
Dr. Linda Quan says
Getting into the water to rescue a person of any size is dangerous. Every national and international swim and lifeguard organization advise that only someone who is trained in making in-water rescues should do this because it is so risky. Even a small child can drown a good swimmer. Knowing how to approach the person so they can’t grab you, knowing how to pull them, and using flotation for yourself and the victim are all key. Thus, the motto is: “Reach (with a long object) or Throw; Don’t go.” It is a terrible conscious but correct decision a parent has to make for themselves and the rest of the family. This is why preventing this situation (i.e., safe sites, life jackets and life guards) is the best decision to make! Stay safe!
When some person submerges in water, the first thing that strikes him/her is panic, in its severest form, for fear of death is the biggest fear. During the panic, water enters the throat and the throat muscles contract. The person continues to move and struggle and lots and lots of water enters the stomach continuously. The windpipe muscles go into severe spasm.