Child drownings are on the rise in the U.S., report says

Data just released by The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows a concerning spike in child pool drownings country-wide.

Nationwide, unintentional drownings are the leading cause of injury related deaths in children between ages 1 and 4.

Officials with John Hopkins All Children's Hospital say they’re seeing a similar spike.

“Between the months of March and May 2020, we’ve seen 17 children be brought to the emergency room here for drowning,” said Dr. Patrick Mularoni. “All of them have needed to come here for care. Of the 17, three have died, one remains in the ICU, and all but two were admitted to the hospital.”

Mularoni said that’s more than double what they saw in the last two years during the same period.

The CPSC says their data shows an average of 379 reported pool-or-spa-related fatal drownings per year, and that most of these deaths occur in a residential setting. 

Mularoni said it’s important to have some sort of fencing around your pool, or at least an alarm on your door so a noise goes off when the child walks toward the pool.

“All people that have pools should have a pool fence,” he said. “You should have a fence that is surrounding your pool on four sides, and the door to that home shouldn’t open to that pool. So, surrounding it on three sides and having your sliding glass door open to the pool doesn’t help, so definitely we should have pool alarms. We should definitely have pool fences.”

This summer is unique, as many pools will be closed or have limited hours because of the pandemic. Mularoni said it’s especially important to be mindful of children if you are one of those parents working from home through the summer. 

“We know that one of the risk factors for children drowning – especially children under five – is that they’re not supervised for a short period of time, and they have a local body of water that they could get to,” he said. “If we look at the COVID-19 crisis, and the way we’re functioning right now, we have parents at home who are having to work from home as well, and sometimes children aren’t being supervised.”

The CPSC recommends the following guidelines: 

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 protection, including a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

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.

Visit the Pool Safely Kids’ Corner to keep children entertained and educated with virtual water safety games and activities. 

Take the Pool Safely Pledge as a family, and find customized water safety resources using the Pool Safely Safer Water Information Match (S.W.I.M.) tool