In the United States, on average more than 1,000 children drown each year and more than 5,000 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries from near-drowning incidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, drowning is the second leading case of unintentional death for children 1-14 years of age.
In Hawaii, and nationally, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1-4 with majority of infant drowning deaths happening in bathtubs, large buckets and swimming pools.
In Hawaii, drowning is the second-leading cause of death for injury-related deaths for all children 1-17. Ocean/salt water environment is the most common place for drowning for children 14-17.
Drowning prevention has been a priority issue for the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, Injury Prevention and Control Section (IPCS) since 1991. Swimming lessons is just one part of the prevention piece. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents use layers of protection such as:
- All parents and caregivers should be trained in infant child CPR.
- Closely supervising children at all times when in or around any body of water. Proper care of a young non-swimmer requires the supervising adult to be within an arm’s length and provide “touch supervision”.
- Installing a four-sided fence around swimming pools. Compared with no fencing, installation of 4-sided fencing that isolates the pool from the house and yard has been shown to decrease the number of pool-immersion injuries.
- When swimming in natural bodies of water or other sites accessible to the public, swim in designated swim areas with lifeguards present.
(Source: CDC, Safe Kids Worldwide, Hawai‘i State Department of Health)
Water Safety At Home
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old. Children less than a year old are more likely to drown at home in the bathroom or a bucket.
- Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult.
- Empty all tubs, buckets, containers and kiddie pools immediately after use. Store them upside down so they don’t collect water.
- Close toilet lids and use toilet seat locks to prevent drowning. Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
- Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
- Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a life.
Resource: Safe Kids Worldwide, Water and Drowning Prevention, 2016
Pool Safety Checklist
- Tips for Parents and Caregivers:
- Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep children within arm’s reach. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
- Teach children how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development and how often they are around water.
- Make sure kids know how to swim and learn these five water survival skills:
1. Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface
2. Float or tread water for one minute
3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit
4. Swim 25 yards to exit the water
5. Exit the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder
- Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet with self-closing and self-latching gates.
- Empty kids’ pool after each use. Store them upside down so they do not collect water.
- Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a child’s life.
Resource: Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide, 2016 “Pool Safety Checklist. Tips for Parents”
Be A Water Watcher
Water Watcher is an adult who commits to watching children in the water, without being distracted. Using the Water Watcher system allows a group of parents to identify one adult for a limited amount of time, say 15 minutes, to be responsible for actively supervising the kids in the water before passing the responsibility on to the next adult.
Families can download a free Water Watcher card at www.SafeKids.org. The card can be passed from one adult to another as a tangible symbol of who has Water Watcher responsibility.
Check the Drains in Your Pool and Spa
• Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
• Pools that pose the greatest risk of entrapment are children’s public wading pools, in-ground hot tubs, or any other pools that have flat drain grates or a single main drain system.
• For new pools or hot tubs, install multiple drains in all pools, spas, whirlpools and hot tubs. This minimizes the suction of any one drain, reducing risk of death or injury.
• Regularly check to make sure drain covers are secure and have no cracks, and replace flat drain covers with dome-shaped ones. If a pool or hot tub has a broken, loose or missing drain cover, don’t use it.
• Make sure your pool or hot tub’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. Go to www.PoolSafety.govfor a list of manufacturers of certified covers.
Common Misconceptions About Drowning
- Parents’ Misconceptions:Nearly half of parents surveyed think that if a child was drowning nearby they would hear it.
REALITY. Drowning is silent. There can be very little splashing, waving or screaming.1 out of 3 parents have left a child alone in a pool for two or more minutes.
REALITY. Drowning is quick. Once a child begins to struggle, you may have less than a minute to react.More than half of parents surveyed think that when present, a lifeguard is the primary person responsible for their child’s supervision at the pool.
REALITY. Watching your child in the water is your responsibility. A lifeguard’s job is to enforce rules, scan, rescue and resuscitate.60% of parents surveyed would not worry as much about drowning if their child has had swim lessons.
REALITY. Swim lessons are essential, but skill level varies. A review of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 47% of 10-17 year olds reportedly knew how to swim.
Resources and Links
- Child Safety Laws and Regulations:
Hawaii Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Law
Law Mandate: Children ages 12 and under must use a properly fitted Coast Guard approved PFD when on deck or underway.EnforcementViolations may result in a fine of $50 to $1,000.Wear a Life Jacket • Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.• Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have kids make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.Infant Appropriate Life Jackets• According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD).• Hold on to your baby while also wearing your own life jacket. Car seats are not a good option. If the boat were to capsize, the seat would sink instantly. To learn more about how to choose the right life jacket for your child visit the Safe Kids Worldwide website at http://www.safekids.org/other-resource/how-choose-right-life-jacket/Keep Little Kids Warm
• Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so if you are taking a baby on a boat, just take a few extra precautions to keep your baby warm. If your children seem cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or towel.
For more information about swimming lessons by county contact the agencies listed below or visit the State of Hawaii, Department of Health, EMS & Injury Prevention System Branch at http://health.hawaii.gov/injuryprevention/
YMCA of Oahu Swim Lessons
1441 Pali Highway
Honolulu, HI 96813
Phone: (808) 536-3556
401 Atkinson Drive
Honolulu, HI 96814
Phone: (808) 941-3344
4835 Kilauea Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: (808) 737-5544
94-440 Mokuola Street
Waipahu, HI 96797
Phone: (808) 671-6495
Mililani West Oahu Branch
95-1190 Hikikaulia Street
Mililani, Hawaii 96789
Phone: (808) 625-1040
1200 Kailua Road
Kailua, Hawaii 96734
Phone: (808) 261-0808
American Red Cross: Free Swim Program for Adults and Keikis
Hawaii State Chapter
4155 Diamond Head Road
Honolulu, HI 96816
Phone: 808-734- 2101
Infant Swimming Resource
Leahi Swim School
The Oahu Club
6800 Hawaii Kai Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96825
O‘ahu Swim Academy
The Swim Instructor will travel to your nearest Pool.
University of Hawaii – Manoa
Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex
2543 Saul Place,
Honolulu, Hawaii 96816
Diamond Head Aquatics
708 Palekaua Street
Special Education Center Of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI 96816
Hawaii Swim Club – Kapolei Swim School
300 Franklin Avenue,
Honolulu Club Swim Lessons
Nancy Wilcox Your Pool Swim School
Honolulu, HI 96813
Patricia Lancaster Swim School
Kailua, HI 96734
Maui Family YMCA
County of Maui Learn to Swim
Valley Isle Aquatics
Maui Dolphin Swim Club
YMCA of Kauai
Kauai County Swim Programs
Happy Swimmers Private Lessons
Mokihana Aquatics Club
Swim Kauai Aquatics
County of Hawaii Swim Programs
University of Hawaii at Hilo Swim Lessons
Source: Safe Kids Worldwide, 2016