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Child Drowning Deaths Increase In Summer

Armen Hareyan's picture

As pools open across the state, Safe Kids Kansas is offering a free tool to help parents keep kids safe in and around water this summer, the most dangerous time of year for kids. Drowning deaths among children ages 14 and under increase 89 percent in the summer over the average annual monthly rate. In Kansas, 36 children ages 0-14 drowned from 2000-2004 and 81% of those children were under age 5.

Overall, the accidental injury death rate of children 14 and under has declined by 45% in the United States since 1987, yet accidental injury remains the nation's leading killer of kids, according to a recent report released by Safe Kids USA. Of these accidental injuries, drowning is the 4th leading cause of death to kids in Kansas.

Charisse Nurnberg of Assaria, Kansas knows how quickly and quietly a child can drown. Her three-year old son Matt drowned in their soft-sided pool in 2002. "Matt went out a basement door that had inadvertently been left unlocked and made his way to our pool in the back yard. When I called our children to come up for dinner, only Brett and Paige came. I went downstairs and saw our basement door open. I went out the door and up our stone steps and saw my husband kneeling over Matt on the ground," said Nurnberg. "No family desires or deserves to suffer the pain, guilt and grief of the loss or injury of their child. My husband and I would like to make parents aware that drowning children cannot cry out or shout for help. Just removing the ladder from an inflatable pool will not save your child. It is also important to have multiple safety features in place before any type of pool is placed near a home - like door alarms, pool alarms, and 4 sided fencing with automatic self-latching gates."

Water Watcher Card is free, easy to use

With the increased likelihood of drowning in mind, Safe Kids has created the Water Watcher Card, which is meant to be passed between adults taking turns acting as the Designated Watcher of children in and around water. "This card will help save lives this summer because it will remind parents to really focus on the kids," said Jan Stegelman, Coordinator of Safe Kids Kansas. "Active supervision is the most important precaution that parents can take."

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Water Watcher Card facilitates active supervision

The Water Watcher Card is free and simple to use. Active supervision via the Water Watcher Card requires that the adult responsible for children to refrain from any other poolside activities, including talking or reading. In set intervals -- 15 minutes at a time is a good starting point -- the person holding the Water Watcher card becomes the Designated Watcher and must keep his/her eyes on the children. After 15 minutes, the card is passed to another adult, who then becomes the Designated Watcher.

"Any parent who has been to the pool knows that when everyone is watching the children, no one really is," Stegelman said, adding that taking your eyes off of a child for even a few seconds can be disastrous. "If you're engaged in a conversation or looking at a magazine, you're not providing active supervision."

Drowning is quick and quiet

Stegelman stresses that drowning occurs quickly and quietly. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child loses consciousness after only two minutes under water, and irreversible brain damage occurs after four to six minutes of submersion. Even if the child is resuscitated after that time, he or she will likely suffer permanent brain damage. Most children who drown are found after approximately 10 minutes.

Safe Kids has other suggestions for keeping kids safe this summer in and around water, including: