By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief—Most children love water, from splashing in puddles to throwing rocks into streams to just playing in the bathtub (a favorite activity of one of my boys was to stand on a chair at the kitchen sink and “wash dishes” with mounds of bubbles). Keeping them away from potentially dangerous situations around water requires constant vigilance when they’re young and repeated warnings as they get older. But often that’s not enough. Too many children drown or nearly drown each year in backyard swimming pools. U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows drowning as the second leading cause of death from unintentional injuries among children ages one to 14.
Last Friday, there was an especially heart-wrenching story: one-year-old twin boys both drowned in a backyard pool in Northern California. Their mother found them, pulled them out of the pool, and tried to revive them but was unsuccessful. I can’t imagine the depths of her grief.
We tend to think that it’s only the large, in-ground swimming pools that pose a hazard. But a recent study in Pediatrics documents that danger persists for all pools, including small backyard portable pools (wading pools, inflatable pools, soft-sided pop-up pools, etc). It looked at drowning and near-drowning (“submersion events”) in these types of pools from 2001 to 2009 and tallied 209 drownings and 35 near-drownings among children under 12.
Not surprisingly, the majority occurred in younger children: 94% were children under five; more than half were boys. And 73% happened in the child’s own backyard. While the description of the type of pool was only reported in about a third of the cases, 41% of the described pools were described as “wading pools.” The authors call for a consumer-education campaign “to make consumers aware of the dangers of portable pools because these small, inexpensive, consumer-installed pools may not generate the same sense of risk as an in-ground pool. “
This study serves as a reminder to parents and grandparents and anyone who cares for children that any body of water—including two inches in a bathtub, a low toilet, or the ankle-deep water at the ocean’s edge—can be dangerous, depending on the age of the child.