Doctor Pedro Costa e Cruz


Drowning an avoidable accident

HPA Magazine 12

Death by drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children. Most cases occur in June, July, and August. Drowning is a quiet, silent event which can take place in a very small amount of water (a small child can drown in less than a handful of water).
In recent years, important efforts have been made in the promotion of preventative measures by the Associação para a Promoção da Segurança Infantil (APSI) - according to this association, in the last 15 years, there have been 238 fatal drownings. Adding to this number were 572 hospital admissions resulting from near downing accidents (many resulting in permanent neurological damage). 


What steps can we take to minimize drowning accidents?

Identify groups at higher risk are: age 0-4 years, male, with additional chronic diseases (epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias).
Identify problem zones: swimming pools, followed by rivers, streams and lagoons and finally, beaches. At home - buckets or water tanks and bathtubs.

Prevention on various levels:

Environment: minimize contact with potentially hazardous spaces by installing physical barriers, such as fences around swimming pools and tanks with self-shutting gates. Make sure wells are also kept covered.

Parental Supervision: constant supervision of children in the vicinity of places with known risk. Avoid toys or inflatable rings in the water (which may attract the child). Discourage diving without prior knowledge of water depth.

Develop swimming skills in the child/adolescent: Teach them how to identify hazardous areas, promote basic swimming techniques (especially after 12 months of age), water safety rules, when help is needed encourage them to ask for help as soon as possible, avoiding unattended areas.
Use of appropriate devices, such as lifejackets.

Parents and caregivers should have cardio-respiratory resuscitation training. Increase public awareness and highlight children’s vulnerability.
Drowning is in fact avoidable. We must all recognize the need for preventive measures in order to enable our children to grow healthy and in safety.