“Drowning is silent” and other water safety facts. - KLFY News 10

“Drowning is silent” and other water safety facts.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day, ten people die from unintentional drowning on average. Of these, two are children younger than fourteen. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

When a 4-year-old child is pulled from a waterway in Dulac, and a 3-year-old Breaux Bridge child drowns in a family swimming pool, it can rock the world of parents with children of similar ages. Studies show children ages 1 to 4 have a higher risk of drowning. In 2009, 30 percent of children in the 1 to 4 age range who died from an unintentional injury, drowned. Most often these accidents occurred in their own back yard, in an ordinary swimming pool. 

However, swimming pools are not the only body of water to be wary of, according to the CDC. "Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water," a report said. This can mean a pool, bathtub and even a bucket of water, if a child is young and small enough. In fact, nationally, studies show anyone can drown in less than 3 feet of water. 

The key word in the CDC's report, is "quietly." Many reports on the stages of drowning state a victim will not yell, scream or flail their arms. In fact, when a person first begins to drown, the first stage is normally panic or shock. In this state, a victim will have a near-vertical position in the water, with their arms making slightly grasping motions. The victim will then hold their breath, causing them to lose oxygen and eventually, lose consciousness. It is important to note that a drowning does not automatically mean a fatality. CPR should be administered to anyone found unconscious in a body of water.

With some many different bodies of water in Louisiana, and so many activities taking place near water, adults possess a similar risk.  A study by Julie Gilchrist, MD and Erin M. Parker, PhD shows that people of different ages drown in different locations. More than half of drowning among people over the age of 15 occur in natural water settings.

Studies show nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are adult men. Fatal drowning are also higher in African Americans that any other minority or race.  Gilchrist and Parker's study states African Americans drown in basic swimming pools at rates 10 times those of Caucasians in particular.      

Possessing swimming skills is a plus, but there are other factors to consider when practicing water safety. A CDC article states, the main factors that affect drowning risk besides a lack of swimming ability are 'lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders." Professionals said a child in particular should never swim alone, even if they are considered an expert. Air-filled or foam noodles, inner-tubes and water-wings are not an appropriate substitution for life jackets. Back-yard pools should have four feet, 360 degrees of barrier fencing. Ideally, fencing should have a self-closing or self-latch gate. 

Of course, the number one prevention for fatal or non-fatal submersion is basic swimming skills. However, most are never taught formally how to swim. Even though the old adage of throw them in the pool works for some, many people don't let themselves or their children close to a pool, until it's too late. 

Debbie Green, a water safety instructor said, "A lot of adults are embarrassed or scared. Unfortunately they can pass that embarrassment or fear to their children. The cycle repeats and it's very important everyone learn basic swimming survival skills."

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