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Fewer Drowning Deaths, Injuries in Kids

< Jan. 18, 2012 > -- The number of drowning-related deaths among children has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s. And researchers say it's because parents have gotten the word that water safety is critical.

Photo of young girl with water wings in pool

"There have been efforts at education from a variety of groups," says study author Stephen Bowman, Ph.D., at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "One would think that those messages are getting across."

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, used the National Inpatient Sample, a vast database compiled by a consortium of about 1,000 hospitals, to track drowning deaths and injuries from 1993 to 2008.

Decline in numbers

Dr. Bowman and his colleagues found that the number of children who died annually from drowning after being admitted to a hospital declined 42 percent during that time period. Total trips to the hospital for children after drowning-related incidents declined by 51 percent.

Breaking the data down by age group, the researchers found a 40 percent drop in hospital visits after bathtub-related drowning incidents among children younger than 4 years and a 50 percent drop in swimming-related hospital trips for children ages 10 to 14. In warmer parts of the country, drowning injuries fell by almost 50 percent during the study period.

Still, more can be done to prevent drowning deaths and injuries, Dr. Bowman says. More than 1,000 children drown in the U.S. each year, and an additional 5,000 are injured in drowning-related incidents.

"We need to keep up our diligence to continue to reduce drowning-related deaths and injuries," he says.

Different age, different danger

Children younger than 4 are most likely to drown in bathtubs or after falling into water. Older children are more likely to drown while swimming.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental trauma in children in the U.S. Only car accidents injure more children, Dr. Bowman says. Nonfatal drowning often results in brain damage and long-term disability.

Katie Carr, at Safe Kids Worldwide, praised the study because it will help safety organizations like hers to focus efforts where more drowning incidents occur.

It "allows us to celebrate the progress that has been made," she says, but more efforts are needed because "one death is one too many."

For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.

Water Safety Musts for Kids

  • Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub, wading pool, swimming pool, lake, or river. If you must answer the phone or get a towel, take the child with you.

  • Be aware of backyard pools in your neighborhood or apartment building; your child could wander off and fall in.

  • Enroll children in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. But remember, the lessons won't make children "drown-proof."

  • Teach your older children that they risk drowning when they overestimate their swimming ability or underestimate water depth.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Drownings: The Reality

Pediatrics - Trends in U.S. Pediatric Drowning Hospitalizations, 1993-2008

Safe Kids USA - Drowning Prevention