Lonnie Parizek: Preventing the tragedy of drowning

Published: Friday, June 7, 2013 at 5:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 at 5:31 p.m.

Drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida children ages 1-4, with more than 60 preschoolers drowning each year. Most young children drown in private swimming pools, either at their own homes or while visiting the homes of relatives or family friends.

Constant adult supervision is the first and most crucial layer of protection; however, short lapses in supervision can easily happen when parents or caregivers become distracted by phone calls, visitors or household chores. Most child drowning victims were out of their parents’ sight for less than 5 minutes, which is why consistent use of fences, pool barriers and alarms is important. Barriers are not a substitute for adult supervision, but consistent use of barriers increases the likelihood that a missing child will be discovered before gaining access to the pool.

For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersions that often leave them with irreversible brain damage. When a child is missing, check the water first. Two minutes following submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage begins to occur after four to six minutes. Every adult should learn CPR because every minute matters. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to save lives, and the more quickly CPR is started, the better the chance of avoiding permanent brain damage or death.

Parents, pool owners and community members all share the responsibility for creating safe environments for children. Please do your part. For information about CPR classes in your area, contact your local Red Cross, hospital or fire department. For pool safety tips and tools, visit www.WaterProofFl.com.

Lonnie Parizek is the director of communications at The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and is a member of the Florida Injury Prevention Advisory Council.

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