Doctors at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Urge Swimming Pool Safety

After treating five children for near-drowning in the last two weeks, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital experts are asking parents to review safety tips. Tom Abramo, M.D., director of the Emergency Department at Vanderbilt Children’s, says most of the incidents have involved children under the age of 5.

“A common misconception is that children under the age of 5 who have had some water safety training or beginner swim lessons are water-safe. But what parents don’t realize is that younger kids, even with water wings on or a float of some kind, can wear out and get into trouble in a matter of seconds because they are not strong enough to pull themselves out of the pool to safety,” Abramo said. “And if a parent is reading a book, talking on the phone or otherwise not paying attention, those few seconds turn into tragedy.”

The majority of children drown in in-ground or public pools, but the risk is rising for backyard, inflatable pools. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 17 drowning deaths involving inflatable pools in 2005, up from nine in 2004 and 10 in 2003.

Here are some facts:

  • Children ages 4 and under have the highest drowning death rate, usually from pools or bathtubs
  • Drowning fatality rates are highest in the Southern United States.
  • About 40 percent of drownings happen on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Most children who drown in pools were out of sight for less than five minutes.
  • Most drownings in children ages 1 to 4 happen in pools.
  • Most drownings in children ages 5 to 14 are in open water sites.

A full two-thirds of all drowning deaths happen in the swim season; almost all of them are preventable.
Other precautions that have been shown to save lives include:

  • A phone located at a pool
  • Lifeguards
  • Rescuing devices (floats or hooks)
  • Lockable fences and gates
  • Pool alarms (that go off when someone hits the water)