Vigilant Parents are Best Defense for Kids Near Water

Popular media might have you imagining that there’s a lot of splashing and thrashing and calls for help when a child gets in trouble in the water. The opposite is actually true: A child slips underwater and silently drowns.

Any source of water can pose a drowning risk to children — even buckets, toilets and small “kiddie” pools.

But in South Florida, the large number of backyard pools poses a special danger. Consider these scary statistics from the Florida Department of Health: In South Florida, drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4.

Drowning is also a leading cause of death for school-age children. Boys are at higher risk than girls at all ages. For every child who dies from drowning in a pool, another 10 receive emergency treatment for nonfatal incidents that can cause brain damage and permanent disabilities.

Most young children who drowned in pools were out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents.

“I don’t think people realize that a really high proportion of drownings occur when someone is watching the children,” said William Ryan Keller, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician at Baptist Children’s Hospital and West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “People really have to be engaged with the kids when they are in the water, not sitting near the pool reading a magazine or texting on their phone. It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown.”

“The most important message, really, is that parents should be watching their children every second,” said Mariana Garcia, R.N., a clinical educator at Baptist Children’s Hospital. “I think sometimes we get comfortable with water because it is all around us.”

Playing It Safe

Be vigilant. An adult should be specifically designated to watch the children in or near the water.
Especially at family gatherings and parties, never assume someone else is keeping an eye on the kids. Others may be assuming the same thing.

Be attentive. When watching children in the pool, refrain from any other distracting activity such
as reading, talking on the phone, texting or doing outdoor chores. Supervising the children should be your only task.

Stay close by. Always be within an arm’s length. If you need to leave the water-play area, even for a few seconds, take the children with you.

Learn CPR. In the time it might take for lifeguards or paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference. Starting CPR immediately can help reduce the chance of brain damage, for example.

Search smart. If your child is missing, search the pool or areas with water first. Every second counts if a child is in danger of drowning.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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