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Health officials warn parents, caregivers about summertime safety amid rise in drownings

Health officials warn parents, caregivers about summertime safety amid rise in drownings
Health officials warn parents, caregivers about summertime safety amid rise in drownings 02:53

NORTH TEXAS – Water is a great way to beat the heat right now, but a fun outing with kids can turn tragic in minutes. 

So far this year, 38 children have drowned in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

A new federal report found drownings involving children under 15 increased 12% from 2020 to 2021, the most recent year the data is available.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, drowning also remains the leading cause of accidental death for kids under five years old.

"So nearly 400 deaths per year, and 6,500 trips to the emergency room – some of them resulting in lifelong injuries," said Alex Hoehn-Saric, chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC report also highlights the disproportionately higher risk for swimming-age kids in Black communities. Out of the 71% of drowning deaths involving children under 15 whose race was specified, African American children made up 23% of all drownings.

"The number one indicator of whether your child knows how to swim, is whether you know how to swim," Hoehn-Saric said. "So it's important to break the cycle. If you don't know how to swim as a parent, it's not too late. Go take the lessons with your children."

The CPSC urges families with young kids and those in historically excluded communities to prioritize water safety this summer by taking the following actions:

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. This person should not be reading, texting, using a phone or being otherwise distracted. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.
  • If you own a pool or spa, install layers of protection, including barriers to prevent an unsupervised child from accessing the water. Homes can use door alarms, pool covers, and self-closing, self-latching devices on fence gates and doors that access pools.
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. Many communities offer online CPR training.
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards. If you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.

Learning how to swim is a life-saving skill, but not every child has access to the water.

"Swim lessons are very expensive," said Theodore Lee, the aquatics director for Tankproof, a nonprofit that provides free swimming lessons to children in underserved communities.  "It's not that you don't want your kids to be safe, it's that you have other things in life to worry about."

That's where Tankproof comes in. The organization hosts swim school in a variety of cities, including a recent week at the Texas Pool in Plano.

"If you know your kids not comfortable being in the water, be in the water with them and always be within arm's reach of them so if something does happen – because it's a pool – you're right there with them," Lee said.

Cie Marin said she has more peace of mind this summer after her daughter finished lessons with Tankproof.

"She's confident in the water," Marin said. "She's not afraid.

The goal is to create a lifelong skill and passion that will not only help kids stay safe and have fun too.

"Conquering your fear of swimming and being comfortable in water, I think helps kids grow themselves in the headspace where they feel they can conquer anything," said Lee.

Tankproof is not the only organization in North Texas that provides free or low-cost swim lessons. You can reach out to the following organizations for more information:

CPSC's latest data show the following for children in the U.S. younger than 15 years of age:

  • Between 2019 and 2021, there was an average of 358 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings reported per year and 75% of those victims were younger than 5 years of age.
  • The number of fatal child drownings in 2021 was 380, a 12% increase from the 339 fatal drownings reported in the previous year.
  • Between 2021 and 2023, there was an average of 6,500 estimated pool- or spa-related, hospital emergency department (ED)-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries each year.

Additionally, the report highlighted specific drowning hazards for children under 5 years of age:

  • In 2023, 77% of all estimated pool- or spa-related, ED-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries involved children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Between 2019 and 2021, there was an average of 269 pool- or spa-related fatal drownings for children under 5, roughly 75% of the total average number of fatal drownings for all children under 15.
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