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Drowning Prevention Tips

‘Keeping Eyes On Prize (Kids!)’ Is Key To Drowning Prevention

No scream. No splash or churning of water. Just silence.

That’s the sound of a child drowning.

“Most people think they’ll hear sounds of distress when a child is in trouble in the water. But they won’t. A drowning is a silent event,” said Dr. Jefry Biehler, Associate Director of Trauma Services at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. “In many cases the parents are sitting nearby, reading or talking. And in the blink of an eye, their lives are tragically altered forever.”

So far in 2007, Nicklaus Children's Emergency Department, the region’s only freestanding pediatric Trauma Center, has received seven drowning victims. Two died from their injuries. Nationally, drowning is the second cause of unintentional injury-related death to children ages 1 to 14, claiming the lives of 900 children each year.

While drowning events can happen in Florida canals, lakes and oceans, the most common place is the family swimming pool. “The majority of drowning and near drowning cases that we treat in the Emergency Department occur in backyard pools,” said Brian Hannigan, Injury Prevention Specialist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, who also serves as the Safe Kids Coordinator for Miami-Dade County. Safe Kids is an international organization dedicated to promoting safety messages to prevent injuries. According to Safe Kids Wordwide, most children who drown were last seen in the home, had been missing from sight for less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning.

Dr. Deise Granado-Villar, Director of Preventive Medicine and Community Pediatrics, said, “Constant adult supervision and adding layers of protection to restrict pool access remains the best means to prevent swimming pool drowning.”

Pools should be outfitted with pool covers and fencing at least five feet high on all sides, with a self-closing latch. Also, locks and alarms should be installed on all doors and windows that lead to the pool, said Hannigan.

Parents should not rely on flotation pool toys to keep children safe. These can lose air or float away from inexperienced swimmers. Children who cannot swim should wear a life jacket at all times in and around the pool and all children should be taught the importance of never swimming alone.

The most important way to keep your kids safe is to keep your eyes on them. Rachel Perry, a Coral Gables mother of two, said. “If my husband or I start to become distracted by reading material or conversation while watching kids in the pool, one of us will remind the other to ‘keep our eyes on the prize.’ Nothing we have to do is more important than the safety of the kids,” she said.

To keep adults focused on who is to watch young swimmers, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, and Safe Kids Worldwide have created a “Water Watcher Card.” Adults can pass the large laminated card from one to another during a swim day to ensure that at least one adult at a time is monitoring swimming children. To receive a free card, call 305-663-8476.

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