Report: Child drownings remain high, fewer swim lessons during pandemic increases risk

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An annual report on drowning and submersion from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that child drownings remain the leading cause of unintentional death among children younger than five years old and how fewer swim lessons during the pandemic affected that data.

The CPSC report released last month offers a view of the data related to pool or spa drowning injuries. Open water drownings or injuries were not listed.

While the report shows that number of pool-or spa-related, hospital emergency department-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries decreased from 2019 (6,300 injuries) to 2020 (5,800 injuries), CPSC advises that the changes are not statistically significant. From 2018 to 2020, 78 percent of nonfatal drowning injuries occurred among children younger than five years old.

CPSC said the lower number of drownings is likely the result of limitations on summer activities – including group or public swimming – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also touched on how fewer kids took swim lessons during the pandemic, which puts them at risk.

CPSC’s latest data show:

  • an increase in pool-or spa-related fatal drowning incidents among children younger than 15 years old;
  • on average, there were 397 reported pool-or-spa-related fatal drownings per year for 2016 through 2018, involving children younger than 15 years of age; and
  • seventy-five percent of the reported fatal drownings from 2016 through 2018 involved children younger than five years of age- eighty-three percent of these were at residential pools.

Where do American children usually learn to swim? Their local pools or recreational centers – where there are usually lifeguards, who train in not only life-saving skills but also help to teach younger people the basics of swimming safety.

Here in Knoxville, some of the lowest-paying jobs listed in a recent report include those that work in water safety, such as lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers; the annual mean salary is listed as $22,350.

While sharing the latest data about child drownings, CPSC is also offering pool safety grants for state and local governments to prevent drownings. The application deadline for a Pool Safely Grant Program is Aug. 16. Learn more about the grant application here.

A few takeaways from the report also list pool safety steps:

  • 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 barriers to prevent the unsupervised child from accessing the water. Homes can use door alarms, pool covers, and self-closing, self-latching devices on doors that access the pools and on gates of four-sided fences.
  • 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.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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