Summer has arrived, and UCLA emergency physicians would like to remind parents how to prevent drownings and water-immersion injuries involving children. These unfortunate and heart-wrenching events most often occur in the summer months, which are filled with water activities. In Los Angeles County, approximately 70 percent of child drownings occur during June, July and August, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Most of these tragic events occur in private backyard swimming pools. More than two-thirds of toddler-age children who were found in pools or spas were thought to have been elsewhere in the house, either sleeping or playing. "Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death among toddlers ages 1 to 2," said Dr. Larry J. Baraff, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "One of the most preventable causes of death, this tragedy can be avoided with just a few simple precautions."
In the past five years, there were, on average, 2,200 children younger than 5 years old treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for swimming pool submersion injuries and 280 pool-related drowning deaths per year. Ninety percent of these deaths occurred at home.
Parents should follow these 10 basic rules to prevent a child drowning:
1. Never leave a child unattended or with a young sibling in a swimming pool, wading pool, bathtub or hot tub. Even a momentary lapse in supervision may result in drowning — a child can drown in just two minutes.
2. Pools should be fenced and gated with self-locking gates. This includes pools located in neighborhoods, apartment complexes, family backyards, etc. Pools must be kept clean, with no covers or rafts that might obstruct one's view of a child.
3. Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub.
4. Be sure all containers with liquids are emptied immediately after use. Do not leave empty containers in yards or around the house where they may accumulate water and attract young children.
5. Adults and teenagers age 14 and older who supervise children should know CPR. Studies have demonstrated that nearly drowned children given quick CPR suffered no brain damage, while children not receiving such immediate treatment sustained brain damage or death.
6. Children should be given swimming lessons but should not be considered water-safe until they are 14 years old.
7. Keep small children out of bathrooms unless supervised by an adult or older child. Since 1973, more than 500 children have drowned in bathtubs, hot tubs, toilets and five-gallon buckets.
8. Older children and even adults should not swim alone in the ocean or fast-moving rivers.
9. Children should wear bright-colored flotation devices when boating.
10. Don't mix alcohol, children and water.
For more information about water safety tips, please visit the Web site of the Injury and Violence Prevention Program of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services at www.lapublichealth.org.