You are here

New Childhood Drowning Study Highlights the Surprising Hazards of Open Water

May 22, 2018
A smiling boy at the beach.

Just Because Children Can Swim in a Pool Doesn’t Mean They’re Safe in Lakes, Rivers and Oceans

Washington, D.C. (May 22, 2018) – As summer swimming season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program are releasing a new report highlighting the danger of childhood drowning, with a specific focus on incidents that occur in lakes, rivers, oceans and other types of open water.

Key findings of the research include:

  • Overall, an estimated 1,000 children fatally drown in a single year, 70 percent of them between May and August.
  • An additional 7,000 children end up in the emergency room because of a drowning scare. That means a minimum of 150 families a week are impacted by a tragic or frightening event.
  • Most often those drownings take place in open water. A 10-year-old, for example, is three times more likely to drown in open water than in a pool. Older teens are more than eight times more likely to die as a result of an open water drowning than a pool drowning.
  • Boys are at greatest risk: 8 in 10 open water fatal drowning victims are males.
  • African American children are twice as likely to fatally drown in open water than their white counterparts. American Indian children are at even higher risk.

Download the Report, Infographic and Fast Facts

The report, Hidden Hazards: An Exploration of Open Water Drowning and Risks for Children, reveals that, while the number of fatal drownings among children and teens declined over the past several decades, the downward trend stopped between 2015 and 2016, when there was a 14 percent increase in fatal drownings. The 1,002 drownings in 2016 (latest data available) was the highest number in five years.

“Just because children can safely navigate water in a pool doesn’t mean they’ll be able to handle the challenges of open water,” says Torine Creppy, president of Safe Kids Worldwide. “Lakes, rivers and oceans present a number of potential hazards—such as dangerous drop-offs, strong currents, hard-to-assess distances and limited visibility—that parents need to carefully consider before allowing their kids to wade in.”

“Findings from our research underscore the importance of water safety, a key focus for Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen cause initiative,” says Lu Yarbrough III, Nationwide’s associate vice president of Enterprise Diverse and Cause Marketing. “Our goal is to arm parents and caregivers with theinformation, tips and tools they need to take preventative action and ensure children can safely enjoy outdoor activities in and around water.”

Keeping Kids Safe in Open Water

The report also features a variety of tips that parents and caregivers can use to keep children safe in and around open water. These include:

  • Use designated swimming and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
  • Watch kids when they are in or around water. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
  • Make sure children learn to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready.
  • Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in and around open water. Get a life jacket (also called a personal floatation device or PFD) that is appropriate for a child’s weight and the water activity.
  • Learn water rescue skills and CPR. It is important to know how to respond in an emergency without putting yourself at risk. Learning basic rescue skills and CPR may help you save a child’s life.

For more information on keeping children of all ages safe around all types of water, go to safekids.org/watersafety

ABOUT SAFE KIDS WORLDWIDE

Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization working to protect children from preventable injuries, the number one cause of death for kids in the United States. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the U.S. and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Since 1988, Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60 percent. Learn how to keep all kids safe at ABOUT SAFE KIDS WORLDWIDE
Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization working to protect children from preventable injuries, the number one cause of death for kids in the United States. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the U.S. and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Since 1988, Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 60 percent. Learn how to keep all kids safe at www.safekids.org.

ABOUT MAKE SAFE HAPPEN

Make Safe Happen® is a program dedicated to reducing accidental injury – the leading cause of death among children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly nine million children are treated at emergency rooms across the country and nearly 8,000 children die each year due to accidental injuries. Protecting child safety and wellbeing for more than 60 years, Nationwide launched Make Safe Happen® in 2015 to empower parents, caregivers and children with tools and resources to make homes safer. Together with its Advisory Council, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Worldwide, the Make Safe Happen® program has delivered over 14 million safety actions to date in 2017 with the hope of reducing childhood accidental injury and death. To learn more and take action, visit www.makesafehappen.com.