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Dr. Luís Gonçalves

Pediatrician & Neonatologist
Unit Director

 

Dr. Luís Gonçalves

How to prevent drowing in paediatric age

HPA Magazine 18


Death by drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children, with most cases occurring in June, July and August. It is a very fast and silent process, occurring most often in swimming pools and beaches but also inside homes - a small child can drown in less than a foot of water, such as in a bucket, for example. Considering the severity of this type of event (death or permanent neurological damage), it is essential to monitor children closely around environments that present risks. 


Prevenir o afogamento em idade pediátrica


 

What measures can we take to minimise cases of children drowning?
1. Identify the groups at higher risk: age group 0-4 years, male, chronic diseases (epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias)
2. Identify the most problematic places: swimming pools, followed by rivers, streams and lagoons and, finally, beaches. In the home, buckets or tanks with water, full bathtubs.
3. Invest on prevention at multiple levels:

• Physical environment: minimize contact with potentially hazardous areas by installing physical protection such as self-closing gates and fences around pools, tanks and wells. 
• Parenting: supervising children at all times around potentially hazardous areas, is mandatory. Avoid placing toys and inflatables in the water (these attract children). Discourage diving unless you know the depth of the water. 
• Teach children/teenagers basic skills: it is important to learn to identify danger, teach basic swimming skills (especially after the age of 12 months), water safety and safe rescue, encourage them to ask for help when necessary, avoid unsupervised areas.  
• Use of protective devices: floating devices (Life jacket).
4. Parents and caregivers trained in cardiorespiratory resuscitation.
5. Raise public awareness and highlight the vulnerability of children.

Drowning is, in the vast majority of cases, preventable. As parents, we have an obligation to recognize the need to institute preventive measures so that our children can play and live in a safe and healthy environment.