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Health and Family Services Cabinet
Practice Water Safety to Prevent Child Drownings this Summer

Press Release Date:  Monday, June 26, 2006  
Contact Information:  Lisa Wallace
(502) 564-6786, ext. 4013

From 1999 through 2004, 120 children and youth - infants to age 18 - have died as a result of drowning in Kentucky. (This number includes preliminary, unpublished data for 2004 and incomplete preliminary data for 2005, according to the state Department for Public Health in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.)

The majority of drowning victims (51) were children younger than 4. The rate of drownings dropped off for children ages 4-13 (24), but increased among children 14-18 (44). One-year-old children had the highest incidence of drowning – 20 during the six-year period.

By definition, drowning is fatal. However, for each drowning death in the United States, one to four children suffer seriously from near-drownings that result in permanent disabilities.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services wants Kentuckians to be aware of the risk of drowning among children and youth, especially as swimming and boating season kicks into high gear. 

“To prevent accidental drowning, it is absolutely critical for parents and other child caregivers to supervise children whenever and wherever they swim,” said William Hacker, M.D., state DPH commissioner. “Adults and youth, too, should always obey the first rule of water safety. Never swim or boat alone."

The National Center for Health Statistics reports the majority of child drownings in the United States – 78 percent – occur in the home. Of home incidents, nationwide, 71 percent occurred in the bathtub and 16 percent of child victims drowned in buckets. Among older children, 63 percent of drowning incidents occurred in rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of fresh water.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, the three leading factors that contribute to child and youth drowning are lapses in adult supervision, alcohol and inadequate swimming ability. 

Reducing the incidence and severity of injuries from unintentional causes is one of the goals of Healthy Kentuckians 2010, a long-term public health policy document that stresses prevention and equity.

“Drowning is a preventable cause of childhood death,” Hacker said. “At home, on vacation, at the public pool, it’s the responsibility of adults to supervise children around water and to make sure children aren’t put at risk by unattended drowning hazards, like wash buckets and wading pools.”

By definition, drowning is fatal. However, for each drowning death in the United States, one to four children suffer seriously from near-drownings that result in permanent disabilities.

  • Provide constant, sober supervision of infants and children in bathtubs and around other bodies of water.
  • Install isolation fencing to separate residential pools from houses.
  • Use personal flotation devices in boats or near bodies of water.
  • Teach children never to swim alone or without adult supervision.
  • Aquatic activities and alcohol/drugs don’t mix.
  • Teach parents and teens cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Carbon monoxide on and around boats is a serious safety risk on the water. Swimmers should avoid areas under houseboat swimming platforms and rear decks while boat engines or generators are running. Don’t sit on the platform while any gas-powered equipment is running. (If exhaust vent is on side, avoid that area.) Also use caution when boats are tied together.
  • Adults should watch children playing or swimming in the rear of houseboats to protect against drowning and other injuries and sickness caused by inhaling carbon monoxide from engine/generator exhaust.
  • Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, dry mouth and confusion. Remember: Carbon monoxide is odorless.
  • If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Read the warnings on motors and engines posted by the houseboat manufacturer.
  • Never disconnect the carbon monoxide detector or monitor on the boat.

Note to editors: This is one of three releases being issued as part of a joint Fourth of July safety effort by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. The three-part package addresses drowning prevention, food safety and fireworks safety.


Last Updated 6/26/2006