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Facts and Safety Tips in and around Water


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Childhood drownings and near-drownings can happen in a matter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision. Two minutes after submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes and determines the immediate and long-term survival of a child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that young children and teens are at greatest risk of drowning. Children under 5 and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest drowning rates. In fact, a swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child under the age 4. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center encourages parents or care providers to use caution when children are around water.

According to Wendy Pomerantz, MD, MS, an emergency room physician at Cincinnati Children’s and one of the leading coordinators for the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center, any child is at risk of drowning around water. Children less than 5 years old are more likely to drown in a pool that belongs to a friend or family member. Teenagers are more likely to encounter drowning and near-drownings in lakes and ponds.

Despite a 40 percent decline since 1987, drowning is still the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States in children ages 1 to 14. More than 900 children die each year from a drowning. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized; for every hospital admission, approximately four children are treated in hospital emergency rooms after near drowning incidents.

“Children can drown in even the smallest body of water including toilets, decorative fountains, bath tubs, buckets, etc. Any time you have a standing body of water that is accessible, make sure you supervise your child at all times,” Dr. Pomerantz said.

Dr. Pomerantz also suggests that if your child has a medical illness that can cause a brief loss of consciousness, such as seizures or cardiac arrhythmias, never leave your child unattended in or near a pool or tub at any age.

Hamilton County Statistics

The statistics for drowning/near drownings between 1999 and 2005 for children 0-19 years old are as follows:

  • 193 children suffered injuries due to drowning. Of those, 10.9 percent were less than 1-year-old; 33.2 percent were 1-to-4-years-old; 24.4 percent were between the ages of 5-and-9-years-old; 18.7 percent were 10-14-years-old; and 13 percent of injuries occurred in children 15-19 years-old.
  • Of those 193 injured, 11.4 percent died; 46.1 percent were hospitalized and 42.5 percent required emergency room visits.
  • Approximately 1/3 of injuries occurred in the home, while 1/4 percent occurred in a sports/recreation environment.
  • Most drownings and near drownings occur in the months of June (25.4%) and July (30.6).
  • African Americans account for 48.7 percent of the injury rate while 46.6 are white. Some 65.3 victims are male and 34.7 are female.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 10 children’s hospitals in the United States to make the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Reports 2009-10 Americas Best Children’s Hospitals issue. It is #1 ranked for digestive disorders and is also highly ranked for its expertise in respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care, neurosurgery, diabetes, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

President Barack Obama in June 2009 cited Cincinnati Children’s as an island of excellence in health care. For its achievements in transforming health care, Cincinnati Children’s is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org.

Contact Information

Danielle Lewis, 513-636-9473, danielle.lewis1@cchmc.org