Heatwave Increases Drowning Risks During Pandemic

Jul 24, 2020

With temperatures rising and public pools closed due to the pandemic, families are looking for ways to beat the heat. Whether it’s a backyard wading pool or a local lake, safety advocates remind us the risk of drowning is real, especially for kids. Here are some tips on staying safe around water.

There are drowning dangers in all water bodies. Safety advocates say "touch supervision" is crucial to keep young children safe while swimming and playing in water.
Credit PeaceHealth Oregon

Dr. Angela Zallen is a pediatrician at PeaceHealth RiverBend Medical Center and co-chair of Safe Kids West Oregon. She said drowning is the single leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4.

“Drowning in kids is a silent process, we don’t hear it--they don’t scream. They don’t splash.”

But drowning is preventable.

“We talk about ‘touch supervision,’” said Zallen, “so having an adult who is responsible for watching kids and being at arm’s length.

Kids should have coast guard approved life jackets in any open water, Zallen insists. Kiddie pools, bathtubs, even buckets should be emptied immediately after use.  And perhaps one of the most important ways to prevent drowning—all children and adults should learn how to swim.

To help keep everyone safe around water, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations:

  • All children and adults should learn to swim. If swim lessons in your area have been suspended because of COVID-19, it’s important to focus on other layers of protection until your child can access lessons.
  • Close, constant, attentive supervision around water is important. Assign an adult “water watcher,” who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores.
  • When infants or toddlers are in or around the water, a supervising adult with swimming skills should be within an arm’s length, providing constant “touch supervision.”
  • Around the house, adults should empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. If you have young children, keep the bathroom door closed and do not leave them alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks can prevent drowning of toddlers.
  • Pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence, with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Research shows pool fencing can reduce drowning risk by half. Additional barriers can include door locks, window locks, pool covers and pool alarms.
  • Adults and older children should learn CPR.
  • Everyone--children and adults--should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they’re in open water, or on watercraft.
  • Parents and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increases the risk of drowning while swimming or boating. 

More information is available at the American Academy of Pediatrics website.