What's Going Around: Water safety

Published:
Updated:

Sobering statistics that are a tragic sign of the summer season: 70 percent of childhood drownings happen between May and August.

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the nonprofit group "SafeKids Worldwide" is a reminder to families of the importance of water safety.

Experts say the most important action parents can take is to watch children when they're in the water.

Emergency room medical experts said that means constant supervision. The rule even applies to public pools where there are lifeguards.

Dr. Mike Patrick who specializes in Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital said it’s important to remember that a lifeguard is watching many kids and could miss something.

"Drowning is usually silent there's not usually a lot of splashing or noises associated with it -- someone goes under the water and they can't get back up you're not going to hear it and you won't know it until it's too late," he said.

Safety experts say even when there is a group at the pool, the adults should designate at least one parent as a "watcher."

The watcher’s sole responsibility is to monitor the children who are in the pool. Swim lessons can be helpful to children as a way to add to their comfort level in the water.

Parents should also take note of what happens after kids get out of the water because of issues with either “dry drowning” or secondary drowning. Dr. Mike said these are rare but knowing what they are can be critical.

In cases of what’s called dry drowning— which is not a medical term, water does not get into the lungs but breathing it in causes a child’s vocal chords to spasm, close up and shuts off the airways.

Watch your child for symptoms, which would appear right after getting out of the water.

The other problem is secondary drowning which is a complication that can happen if the water gets to the lungs. Dr. Mike said you should keep a close eye on your child if they have a significant event in the water.

“If they do start to develop a persistent cough or wheezing difficulty breathing you'd want to get them to see someone either AT an urgent care or an emergency department,” Dr. Mike said.

If the problems are significant, call 911.