The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a government agency that tracks deaths in the United States, has reported an increase in child drowning deaths over the last 4 years. While the data did not include the time period of the global coronavirus pandemic, it does contribute to an ongoing conversation about quarantines and water safety.
While many organizations have discussed the risk from lack of swim lessons in efforts to convince governments to reopen pools, the CPSC has said that the lack of supervision around residential pools gives them concern that these numbers could continue to spike going forward.
Specifically, the CPSC says that because of the ongoing coronavirus shutdowns, more children are spending more time at home this summer, which leads to an increased risk.
The CPSC shows a gradual increase in annual fatal drowning rates from 2015 through 2017, from 379 in 2015 to 395 in 2017.
Nationwide, unintentional drownings are the leading cause of injury-related deaths in children from the time they become independently mobile, around age 1, to age 4.
“We know that one of the risk factors for children drowning – especially children under five – is that they’re not supervised for a short period of time, and they have a local body of water that they could get to,” Dr. Patrick Mularoni of John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital said in an interview with a local Fox affiliate in Tampa, Fox 13. “If we look at the COVID-19 crisis, and the way we’re functioning right now, we have parents at home who are having to work from home as well, and sometimes children aren’t being supervised.”
Mularoni says that his hospital has seen an increase in children being brought in for drowning. Between March and May 2020, the hospital has seen 17 children in the emergency room for drowning. That’s more than double what they saw in the same period in the last two years.
Of those 17, he says 3 have died, 1 remains in the ICU, and all but 2 were admitted to the hospital.
The CPSC says that a gap in adult supervision is the biggest risk of drowning nationally, especially in residential pools.
Children younger than 5 years old accounted for 75 percent of child drownings between 2015 and 2017, 56 percent of which were attributed to a gap in adult supervision. Residential locations, such as a child’s home, a family or friend’s house or a neighbor’s residence, made up 71 percent of the reported fatal drowning incidents.
Recommended safety tips from the CPSC:
- 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 smartphone or be 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 a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
- 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 and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safer drain covers.
- Visit the Pool Safely Kids’ Corner to keep children entertained and educated with virtual water safety games and activities.
- Take the Pool Safely Pledge as a family, and find customized water safety resources using the Pool Safely Safer Water Information Match (S.W.I.M.) tool.