homepage logo

Drowning numbers climb spring-summer; Cape Coral pool to participate in

By Staff | Mar 22, 2008

Leaving a young child unsupervised next to a pool could be a nightmare for local parents if the child falls in and either no one is around to save them or no one knows how.

According to the South West Florida Drowning Prevention Committee, the drowning rate increases by 50 percent in March and continues to increase through October.

“This is a huge issue in Southwest Florida,” said Diane Holm, chair of the SWFDPC. “Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for children under the age of 5.”

Holm explained how it takes only a few seconds for a parent to lose sight of their child during a family picnic or party and only to realize moments later that the child has fallen in the pool. Unfortunately, by that time it may be too late.

“Most often this happens with preschool aged children at the pool at their home, families’ pool or neighbor’s pool,” said Holm. “Drowning is totally preventable.”

On March 29, the drowning prevention committee is sponsoring Water Safety Day where 10 waterfront facilities are offering programs and information for children and parents on how to keep kids safe around water.

The Center for Disease Control in 2004 reported that there were 3,308 unintentional fatal drownings in the United States which is an average of nine people per day. In the same year, of all children deaths in the country, 26 percent of them were from drowning.

And Florida leads the nation by nearly double in drownings, losing the equivalent of two pre-school classes of children to drowning every year.

While drowning rates have recently declined because of education and prevention programs, it still is considered a significant cause of death for young children from all backgrounds.

In fact, males accounted for 78 percent of all drownings that were unintentional in the United States.

For African American children ages five to 14, that rate is 3.2 times as high as other races. A report conducted by the CDC said that factors such access to aquatic facilities as well as what children of different races choose to participate in may be the reason for differences in drowning rates among various races.

“We can’t get rid of a child’s natural curiosity, but we can create layers of protection,” said Holm.

Water Safety Day will be offered at 10 pools around the county, including the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Each facility will offer safety lessons and literature for adults and children. Parents also will be issued child watching lanyards.

Some of the general lessons, Holm explained, will be how to wear life jackets, how it feels to fall into the water wearing a life jacket, how to rescue someone from the pool using their arm or a pool noodle and assessing each child’s swimming ability for lessons.

But while pool facilities will offer lessons under this general range, each participating pool has the choice of what specific lessons to teach.

At the Cape Coral Yacht Club, there will be a series of lessons and demonstrations. Mary Beth Pavoggi, the aquatics supervisor, said that from 10 a.m. to noon there will be information on drowning prevention available to parents and children.

“The staff will be doing rescues showing how to rescue someone that is drowning in the deep end, how to put someone on a backboard if they have a spinal injury and CPR demonstrations,” said Pavoggi.

The facility also will raffle off three life jackets designed for small children. The American Red Cross will be on standby to discuss CPR and the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida will present information on the benefits of sun block.

“We try to combine things that are appropriate for pool safety and overexposure to the sun can result in serious injury or death,” said Pavoggi.

Since exposure to the sun can contribute to various health problems such as skin cancer, the Children’s Hospital will discuss appropriate protection for your skin by wearing sun block, sunglasses and hats.

Skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States, has two common types that are easily treatable. On the other hand, melanoma is another form that is significantly more dangerous for young people. According to the CDC, 65 to 90 percent of melanoma is caused by exposure to sunlight.

The CDC recommends these following tips to prevent a child from being harmed at the pool this summer:

n Designate a responsible adult to watch the young children by the pool and ensure that this adult has no other distractions while they are supervising.

n Never swim alone and try to find a facility that offers a lifeguard.

n Avoid drinking alcohol before swimming or supervising children.

n Swimming lessons are not the only means of preventing drownings, parents should also use supervision and pool fencing.

n Because it may take emergency responders a significant amount of time to respond to a drowning, learn CPR. It will improve the outcome and make a difference.

n For children, don’t use pool noodles or water wings in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed for pool safety.

n If you have a pool at home, install a fence that is at least four feet high with self latching gates that separate the house and backyard from the pool.

n If you are swimming at the beach, a lake or pond, know the weather and signs indicating rip currents. Also, use lifejackets for small children.

The American Red Cross also offers local courses showing lifeguard skills. Those who take the class will learn how to survey people in the water, first aid and CPR and how to work with the public. Classes are offered for people interested in being a lifeguard at a pool or outdoors in a natural body of water.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is at 6310 Techster Blvd. Suite 7 in Fort Myers. For more information visit www.redcross.org.