Swimming safety and children, more important than ever

With record setting temperatures this week, parents will be looking to get their children into the water as a great way to cool off. It is co-incidental that this is also National Drowning Prevention Week, whose key message is to play safe.

Swimming can be a lot of fun on a hot summer day, but each year, thousands of people are seriously injured or die in swimming accidents. The majority of these accidents involve drowning, near-fatal submersions, diving mishaps and falls.

Children are particularly at risk for injury. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children under 14 years old. Children under the age of 5 are the most likely to drown in an unsupervised pool. Tragically, many of these swimming accidents could have been prevented. Lifesaving Society public education director, Barbara Byers, states “Younger children are absolutely fearless of the water”. “ There is a magnetic attraction to water. So, it’s our job, as adults, to control access to the water”.

The Ontario Coroner’s Office recently released its report following a review of drowning accidents in Ontario during the summer of 2010. The report found a “disturbing” spike in the number of deaths involving young children. More than twice as many children under age five drowned in 2010 than in the previous two years — a total of 13 last year compared to five in 2008 and 2009. The team examined 89 accidental drowning deaths. Their task was to identify common factors that may have played a role in the deaths and if necessary, make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Among the highlights of the report:

•Drowning occurs largely in those owning or utilizing private pools and those using lakes/ponds for their aquatic setting;
•96% of those operating power boats and unpowered boats that drowned were not wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices
•Drowning is largely a male-related phenomenon, with 76 of 89 deaths, or 85 per cent, involving male victims.
•Alcohol was a contributing factor in 67 per cent of the drowning deaths of those between 15 and 64 years of age.

The report made 12 recommendations to try to prevent such needless tragedies. Topping the list:
•learning to swim;
•avoiding alcohol while swimming and boating;
•wearing a life-jacket; and
•closely supervising children around water.

Click here for a link to the report: 2010 Drowning Review – Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario

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