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Utahns Urged to Use Caution around Water

Relaxed restrictions during the Yellow Phase permit group swimming, with social distancing guidelines in place. Photo: Utah Department of Health

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The following information is from the Utah Department of Health.

New research shows families often have false sense of security

Salt Lake City, Utah – As families take to the water this summer, there is reason for extra caution. An above average snowpack, wet spring, and warming temperatures increase the risk of drowning.

“We are urging the public to be extremely careful around any open bodies of water right now. With the spring runoff, water is moving fast and cold and the risk of drowning is just too great, especially for children,” said Cambree Applegate, Safe Kids Utah director with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).

In Utah, drowning was the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children aged 0-17. Over the last five years (2011-2015) in Utah, there were 42 drowning-related deaths for children aged 0-17. More than half (52%) of these drowning deaths occurred among children 0-4 years of age.

Drowning risk varies by a child’s age and location. Data from the UDOH showed that over the last 10 years (2007 to date) approximately:

  • 43% of child drowning deaths occurred in open bodies of water, such as a river, stream, canal, lake, or reservoir.
  • 30% of child drowning deaths occurred in a pool. The majority of these deaths occurred among children younger than eight years of age.
  • 19% of child drowning deaths occurred in a bathtub. The majority of these deaths were among infants less than a year of age.

“A common scenario involves an under-supervised child wandering off during a weekend family gathering – with several adults present but none designated as the official “water watcher” – and falling into water,” said Applegate. “We also see ‘witnessed’ drownings, especially among teens, swimming with friends at a lake or reservoir. Friends and family members see the victim go under the water but are unable to rescue them. Overestimating one’s swimming abilities and peer pressure are thought to be factors in these deaths.”

Nationally, two-thirds of fatal drownings occur each year between May and August. New research, conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide revealed misconceptions that are giving families a false sense of security and leading to these far too common tragedies. These misconceptions, if left unchallenged, will increase children’s risk of drowning. The full report can be found at http://ow.ly/bKpS30bOSDW.

FACT: Drowning is silent. In real life, there can be very little splashing, waving or screaming. FINDING: Almost half of the parents surveyed think that if a child was drowning nearby, they would hear him/her. SAFETY TIPS: Actively supervise children when water is nearby. Put away distractions such as cellphones and assign an adult to be the “Water Watcher” so everyone is clear who is watching the children at any given time.

FACT: Drowning is quick. The reality is that once a child begins to struggle, parents may have less than a minute to react. FINDING: One in three parents surveyed has left their child at a pool for two or more minutes without supervision. SAFETY TIPS: Keep young children within arms’ reach of an adult at all times. Make sure older children swim with a partner.

FACT: Swim lessons are essential, but skill level varies. Children can still drown even if they are a proficient swimmer, especially in cold, rough waters. FINDING: A review of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 42 percent of 5 to 17 year olds reportedly knew how to swim. SAFETY TIPS: Swimming skills are developed and improve over time. Make sure your child learns to swim and develops these five water survival skills:

  1. Step or jump into the water over their heads.
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit from the water.
  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit.
  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to take CPR training, download a Water Watcher Card, and visit www.SafeKids.org for more information. Data on drowning in Utah and additional water safety tips can be found at http://health.utah.gov/vipp.