The silent tragedy that happens too often: Drowning myths-vs-facts

Drowning myths and facts: A discussion of common misconceptions about drowning

It was July. The city pool was packed with children finding respite from the sweltering day.

The sounds were normal; laughing, giggling, and splashing. Not one swimmer or parent-on-the- sidelines knew a tragedy was unfolding. Amongst the joy of that summer day in the sun, a child had drowned in the city pool.

But I saw the accident. I was trained to know what a drowning is really like. I was the lifeguard.   There was no cry for help or wild struggle with splashing.  A 4-year-old girl just slid silently under the water and couldn’t get back up for air.

That drowning victims make a lot of noise is only one of the false-assumptions around water safety, which keep drowning tragedies too often at the top of the daily news.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –  in the United States, 300 children die each year and about 3,000 children are taken to emergency rooms from drowning.

Arizona is fourth in the nation for incidence of childhood drowning, notes Pool Safely.

Can you debunk some of these common myths about drowning?  True or False?

  1. Arm floaties are a way to keep a child safe.
    False:  Arm floaties should never be used. They slip off, puncture and give a child a false sense of security.
  2. Non-fatal drowning means the victim is fine.
    False:  It is always great news when a drowning victim survives, but only four minutes without oxygen may affect the brain forever. A person may survive a drowning, but their life may never be the same.
  3.  African American individuals drown more often than other races.
    True: Among children ages 5-14, African American children drown almost three-times the number of white children, according to the CDC.
  4. Men are often stronger than women yet they drown more often than women.
    True: Nearly 80 percent of individuals who drown are men.
  5. By age 3 a child is finally ready to start their swim lessons.
    False: A child can begin swim lessons with their parent before they learn to walk and become dangerously mobile.
  6. Children drown more often than adults.
    False: Adults drown 70 percent of the time and children drown 30 percent of the time according to Children Safety Zone.

For more information on drowning prevention you can check out this infographic.

The little girl who drowned in the pool that day comes to my mind each year when the weather warms up. I rescued her from bottom of the pool. Up on the deck again, she began crying and I’m sure her mother was holding back tears, too, as she signed her daughter up for swim lessons the very next day. I was a Red Cross Certified instructor for that pool and a competitive swimmer during both high school and college. I’ve enjoyed swimming as a fun and lifelong sport. But the fun comes to a halt when we as adults don’t swim smart, and when we don’t do all we can to keep our children safe.

There are many resources available: Banner Children’s GOKIDS!; GOKIDS! mom blog; Banner Health Water Safety Tips; Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona

Also see: Drowning facts and stats (Infographic)

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