BATON ROUGE - With many in Louisiana retreating to the water to cool off as summer temperatures rise, the Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) urge parents and caregivers to keep children safe in and around water this summer by ensuring that young children are properly supervised.
DCFS has investigated an average of seven cases each year since 2000 involving drowning deaths of children. An average of four of these cases involved water sources such as pools, ponds, lakes or rivers. This year, only one week after the official start of summer, DCFS is investigating four drowning cases.
"During the summer months and in advance of the Fourth of July holiday, many families and children will spend time in and around swimming pools, lakes, rivers and at the beach, so it is important for parents and caregivers to take extra precautions to keep children safe," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Unfortunately drowning can happen to a child very quickly, so proper supervision is critical. Be aware of nearby water and always keep your eyes on your children. Letting them out of your sight, even for only a few seconds can have tragic results."
Lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers around water sources, improper use of life jackets, inadequate supervision, alcohol use and seizure disorders are the main factors that contribute to drowning risk.
"When you're spending the day splashing around at the pool, beach or lake, being safe may not be the first thing on your mind," said J.T. Lane, LDH Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public Health. "Yet drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States and kills more toddlers 1-4 years old than anything but birth defects. Most of these deaths are preventable. Being aware of the risks and taking safety precautions are proven ways to prevent drowning injuries and deaths."
LDH encourages parents and caregivers to take the following steps to protect children and adults and reduce the risk of drowning:
- Always have adult supervision when people are in or around the water. This is especially important for children and people who have seizure disorders or other medical conditions that could cause them to lose consciousness.
- Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
- Take swimming lessons.
- Learn CPR.
- Do not use air-filled or foam toys in place of life jackets.
- Avoid the use of alcohol when supervising children.
- Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
- Keep a phone near the pool or other water body, along with rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and a shepherd's hook -- a long pole with a hook at the end swimmers can grab to be pulled out of the water if in distress.
- Ensure that pools are surrounded by a fence at least four feet high. Pool gates should self-close and self-latch at a height small children can't reach.
- Add a water motion alarm to the pool that will sound when water is disturbed when the pool is not being used. Alarms many times come with a remote alarm that can also be placed in your house.
Swimming pools pose the greatest risk of drowning for young children, and most young children who drown in pools had been out of sight for less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time. However, drowning can happen anywhere there is water, so parents and caregivers should be aware of the risk posed by bathtubs, toilets and even buckets. Drowning can occur in less than two inches of water.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.