Drowning a bigger problem than most realize

Published 9:12 pm Friday, August 4, 2017

Another young child recently died after she was found unresponsive in a backyard swimming pool in Jackson.

The girl’s mother pulled the 2-year-old from the pool and performed CPR. She was taken to Blair E. Batson Hospital, where she later died.

When it comes to injury dangers for young children, drowning is the most deadly. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children 1-4. Drowning claims the lives of more children in that age group than anything else, except for birth defects.

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While we are constantly bombarded with safety tips and warnings about young children in hot cars, there’s less attention paid to the dangers of pools and ponds.

But drowning deaths across all ages are a much bigger problem than most people realize.

On average, more than 3,500 people die from drowning each year in incidences not involving boats. That’s about 10 per day. Twenty percent of those victims are young children.

In Brookhaven and Lincoln County, there is no shortage of pools. Just take a satellite spin on Google Maps and you’ll see plenty of them.

The problem isn’t the pools themselves. Too often it’s our lack of attention.

We’ve all taken a phone call or checked a phone while a child is swimming. We’ve all gotten distracted when we should have been watching. It’s so easy for a young child to slip under the water unnoticed.

Case in point: My 5-year-old, who is a decent swimmer, jumped in the deep end of his grandparents’ pool instead of the shallow end and panicked. He didn’t scream, he didn’t splash or ask for help. He just went under.

We were sitting five feet from him and it took us several seconds to realize what was happening. Drowning doesn’t look like the way it’s often portrayed on TV. If we had turned our backs to the pool for a minute or two, he might have drowned.

Below are warning signs of active drowning, courtesy of USA Today. When you see these signs, you only have a few seconds to save a life.

• Silence. A child who is hyperventilating won’t scream for help. They will be gasping for breath.

• Head tilted back. Instinctively, a child will try to keep airways clear of water. While their body might be in a vertical position, water might be covering most of their face.

• Arms moving downward. They are trying to get a hold of something that’s not there.

• Floating face-down. If someone’s body is horizontal and face-down for 30 seconds or more, be concerned. Don’t mistake it for purposeful floating.

Before active drowning occurs, look for these warning signs that someone is in danger.

• Wall-crawling. Clinging to the side of the pool because they are too tired to swim.

• Isolation. If someone is alone in the water, especially a child, there might be a problem.

• Bobbing. If someone is trying to swim, but making no progress in the water, they could be in trouble.

Anyone who has a pool should also make sure it is secured and that small children don’t have access to it. Knowing CPR is also a good idea for anyone who has a pool.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.