Drowning is the Fifth Leading Cause of Unintentional Injury Death in the United States

Jul 16, 2012, 10:01 ET from American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

Nation's Emergency Physicians: Fun in the Water Can Quickly Turn Deadly

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As temperatures continue to stay high this summer, more people head to beaches, pools, lakes and out on boats.  The nation's emergency physicians want everyone to get all the facts regarding unintentional drowning before you end up in the emergency department, or worse. 

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Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  It ranks as the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States.

"Fun in the water can turn deadly in only a matter of seconds and it can happen to anyone," said Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.  "While it's impossible to predict and prevent every scenario, you can take steps to stay safe while still enjoying yourself."

Several factors can contribute to a person drowning and obviously not all of them can be controlled.  However, steps can be taken to keep a child and even an adult as safe as possible when near or in the water.

  • Supervise Young Children — They must be watched at all times when near water.  It can take only a matter of seconds for a child to accidentally drown when an adult turns away.
  • Learn to Swim — Formal swim lessons can protect people, especially young children from drowning.
  • Learn CPR — It can take paramedics several minutes to arrive.  Having CPR skills often times can mean the difference between life and death or permanent brain damage.
  • The Buddy System — Swim in areas that have lifeguards on duty if possible.  Always swim with a buddy.
  • Avoid Alcohol — Drinking alcohol while on a boat or swimming in the water can severely impair a person's judgment.  Never consume alcohol while supervising children. 
  • Use Life Jackets — When on a boat, make sure the number of (Coast Guard approved) life jackets matches the number of passengers and that they are easily accessible.  Young children should have a life vest on at all times when on a boat, or in the water. According to the CDC, potentially half of all boating deaths might be prevented with the use of life jackets.
  • Air-filled or Foam Toys Not Safety Devices — These toys are not substitutes for life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Knowing Weather Conditions — If strong winds or heavy thunderstorms and lightning roll in, get out of the water and seek shelter immediately. 
  • Waves and Rip Currents — If on the beach, watch for dangerous waves and rip currents.  If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim toward the shore. 

"Emergency physicians sadly see plenty of drowning or near drowning cases that never should have happened in the first place," said Dr. Seaberg.  "Have fun this summer, but use common sense, stay alert, know your surroundings and use simple precautions."

Facts about Drowning:

  • More than 3,500 people died between 2005 and 2009 from unintentional drowning, according to the CDC.
  • Around 350 additional people die each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.
  • More than half of drowning victims treated in the ER need further treatment.
  • Nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage.
  • Nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are male.
  • Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rate – with most of those drowning incidents occurring in home swimming pools.

Dr. Ryan Stanton, a national spokesperson for ACEP and an emergency physician in Lexington, KY is available to talk with you about this topic.  Or if you would prefer a local spokesperson, please let me know.

To learn more about drowning and other health-related topics, please go to www.EmergencyCareForYou.org

ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. 

SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)