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Keep Safety in Mind While Cooling Off in the Water

Youngsters need extra vigilance near pools, beaches and hot tubs, experts warn

SUNDAY, June 14 (HealthDay News) -- Summertime brings pool parties, lazy days at the beach and boating trips to the lake.

All that time in and around water also brings a heightened risk of drowning, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Each year, nearly 3,000 people drown in the United States. Young children are particularly at risk, Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the ACEP, noted in a news release from the society. "It only takes a few seconds and a few inches of water for a child to drown," he said.

Drowning accounted for nearly 30 percent of deaths among children aged 1 to 4, according to 2005 statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"For every child who dies, more than 10 others are treated in emergency departments for near drowning," Jouriles said in the news release.

As families uncover backyard pools and make plans for vacation trips to the nation's lakes and beaches, emergency department physicians are bracing for the tragedies they see every summer.

Some 70 percent of child drownings in Los Angeles County occurred during June, July and August, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

In two-thirds of cases, the parents or caregivers of toddler-aged children found dead or nearly drowned in a pool or a spa thought their children were either sleeping or playing elsewhere in the house.

Drowning deaths can happen quickly. Most young children who drowned in pools had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time, according to the CDC.

When it comes to water safety, particularly involving children, you can never take too many precautions, emergency physicians say. Ways to prevent deaths from drowning include:

  • Never leave a child unattended near a swimming pool, wading pool, bathtub or hot tub.
  • Don't leave open containers of water near children. Small children can drown in just a few inches of water. Since 1973, more than 500 children have drowned in bathtubs, hot tubs, toilets and five-gallon buckets, according to University of California, Los Angeles Health Services.
  • Take your children for swimming lessons, with a qualified swimming instructor if possible, as early as you can.
  • Never permit anyone, adults included, to swim alone.
  • Enclose pools and hot tubs with fences with self-locking gates. This includes pools in backyards, neighborhoods and apartment complexes. Pools should be kept clean and free of covers or rafts that could obscure your view of a child.
  • Always outfit young children with life vests or approved personal floatation devices whenever they are near water.
  • Don't allow rough play -- pushing or jumping on others -- while in the water.
  • Never consume alcohol and swim, especially if you are responsible for watching children.
  • Avoid head and neck injuries by not diving into unfamiliar water.
  • Choose beaches, pools and lakes that are watched by certified lifeguards, and always swim or surf in designated areas.
  • Know basic CPR skills in case of an emergency. Studies show people who have received CPR in cases of near-drowning are less likely to suffer brain damage or death.

More information

The ACEP Foundation's Web site Emergency Care For You has tips on performing CPR and water safety.

-- Jennifer Thomas

SOURCES: American College of Emergency Physicians, news release, May 18, 2009; University of California Los Angeles, news release, May 8, 2009

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