Child drownings up in certain parts of US

Posted at 5:51 PM, Aug 28, 2020

The current pandemic has led many people to spend more time outside this summer, with many setting up backyard pools or heading to lakes and beaches. But all of that water recreation has led to a spike in drownings.

"We were seeing it across a national level and when we looked at our local data, we saw that we were following as part of that trend," said Dawne Gardner, an Injury Prevention Specialist with Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Normally, they see anywhere from one to three child drowning deaths a year. This summer, they've seen nine.

"We know that with parents, they're looking for alternative vacations and things are limited right now with COVID-19 and still being able to social distance. We know that with those limited options, parents are utilizing backyard pools more," said Gardner.

Gardner says it may seem safe to have your child swimming in your backyard but she says safety goes way beyond location. Supervision is key.

"You can't be distracted. So, when kids are in and around water, parents have to be on top of the supervision. Every second counts. And if you take your eyes off of them in the water even for a second, that could be that quiet second that a child slips under water," said Gardner.

Other areas of the country also saw a dramatic change in the number of child drownings, but not all were bad.

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida reported that from March through June, doctors saw a 150 percent increase in child drownings and near-drownings compared to the same time period last year.

While at Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno County, California, officials reported a sharp decline in child drownings.

The shelter-in-place restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic don't just prompt families to take part in more water-related activities, they did so at a time when most swimming lesson facilities had to shut down.

It was a concern for Aqua-Tots that kids were missing out on a crucial time for swim lessons.

"It was incredibly hard to close the doors to our businesses at such a crucial time of year where families and children are outside in the heat and they're flocking to bodies of water. They're swimming a lot more often so it was very tough," said franchise owner Lindsay Thayer of Aqua-Tots.

Aqua-Tots has 100 locations in 14 different countries, including here in the U.S. They teach swimming lessons to children, teens and adults. Thayer says to help prevent accidental drownings, children need to learn water safety.

"Children need to know that they need to ask permission, when to approach a body of water, when to get into a pool or lake with mom or dad, a guardian or adult before doing so. Also, swim lessons are especially important. Participating in a formal swimming lesson program can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% in children between the ages of one and four," said Thayer.

Jen Deis, the General Manager of Goldfish Swim School near Cincinnati agrees. Goldfish Swim School provided some online tutorial videos for parents to help them teach their children some basic swimming skills. But she says swim lessons, even during the winter, are vital.

"Swimming is like any other sport or skill. Kids need constant reinforcement of those swim skills to remember those water safety skills year round. While, right now it is a top priority, with kids around bodies of water a lot of times, keeping them consistent in their swim lessons is really important," said Deis.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital reports the nine drowning victims ranged in ages from young children to teenagers.

Ensuring fences or other barriers are around pools is also important.

They're urging parents to be vigilent when it comes to keeping your children safe around water, hoping to prevent any more accidental drowning deaths this summer.