As the summer continues, Oklahoma families are spending their time in the water to keep cool. In effort to help prevent injury and drowning, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages the public to use caution and practice water safety.
In Oklahoma, there were 296 drowning deaths reported from 2015-2018. Among adults, the most common places for drowning were natural bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, etc. One in four drowning deaths were children aged 0-19. Of those, more than half were children 1-4 years of age. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1-4 years of age. Unlike adults, the most common place for young children to drown was in a swimming pool.
Lorry Gail Malcom is the OSDH childhood injury prevention project coordinator. She said drownings are preventable, but there must be multiple safe guards in place.
“People shouldn’t rely on one method or product to keep themselves or their children safe,” said Malcom. “Multiple strategies and devices must be used simultaneously to ensure everyone’s safety in and around water.”
The OSDH recommends the following safety tips while being in or near the water:
- If a young child is missing, check the water first. Most children who drowned in swimming pools were not expected to be in or near the pool.
- Stay within arm’s reach when a child is in or near water – even if they know how to swim. Never leave a child unsupervised in or near the water, not even for a minute. Drownings are silent and can occur in less time than it takes to answer the telephone.
- Invest in swimming lessons and learning child and infant CPR. Swim lessons for children reduce drowning risk and early CPR intervention can improve outcomes in a drowning incident. Local CPR certification classes can be found through the American Red Cross website (redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr).
- Home pools should be surrounded by pool fencing with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The fencing should be at least four feet high with no gaps more than four inches wide.
- Empty bathtubs, buckets and other containers of water immediately after use. Install toilet seat locks. It takes less than two inches of water for a drowning to occur.
- Wear life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard when boating. Swim noodles and water wings are not safety devises and should not be used in place of life jackets.
- Avoid alcohol and drug use when in the water or supervising children in the water. These substances impair judgment and slow reaction times – two critical tools in emergencies.