Drowning – An avoidable Tragedy!


One tragedy, that truly scares any parent, is losing a child. There is no greater loss or pain. More scarily, in South Africa, drowning is listed as one of the top causes of unnatural death amongst children. In 90% of these cases the child was under some sort of supervision at the time!

Parents or care-givers of these horrible tragedies usually say that they only left their attention from the child for a few minutes. The problem is that that is enough time for a child to fall into open water and the worst part is that it only takes 4 minutes without oxygen for irreversible brain damage to occur!

In South Africa more drownings happen at inland provinces than in the coastal ones. More shockingly is that the emergency calls received in the coastal provinces, involving children, resulted more from freshwater sources such as public or private swimming pools than sea emergencies! That means people require much more awareness of safety around water, who own a swimming pool than those going to the beach!

Another frightening tragedy that is less well-known but a reality is secondary drowning. After a near-drowning incident or a struggle in water, the victim could have breathed in a small amount of fluid that builds up in the lungs, called pulmonary edema. Such a person can be out of the water and walking around normally before signs of secondary drowning become apparent. It results in breathing trouble and brain injury, if untreated, it can be fatal. The signs are not easy to spot, particularly in young children who may normally be fussy or tired after a long day in the sun and water. A person who has inhaled water can have: trouble breathing, chest pain or cough. They can also show sudden changes in behavior or extreme fatigue. Secondary drowning is treated with oxygen or ventilation in a hospital. Therefore, if your child had a near-drowning incident, take him/her to the hospital immediately.

But the fact of the matter is that drowning or secondary drowning is preventable. A parent should not only be attentive and keep a watchful eye, but must have multiple layers of safety precautions with children around swimming pools and even other water sources like water buckets, water bowls for pets, fountains and water features, because a child can easily drown in a few hundred millimeters of water!

Water safety can include:

  • Good parental supervision
  • Teach swimmers to blow water out, know their limits, and not panic in the water
  • Add a child safe, self-closing, self-latching gate around your swimming pool
  • Maintain strict pool rules, especially where or if diving is allowed
  • Statistics prove that drowning decreases significantly if a swimming pool is closed off with four-sided fencing
  • Take your child for swimming lessons and teach them to be water-safe
  • Do not let your child swim alone
  • Parents and care-givers must be trained in first aid and CPR
  • Avoid alcohol when supervising children swimming
  • Make sure filtration systems or drain pumps are not an entrapment risk
  • Keep your pool grounds well-maintained
  • Keep approved flotation devices and rescue equipment available and easy accessible
  • Properly install a certified safety net or pool cover and have this removed completely when swimming
  • Remove any nearby furniture or other items that could be used by children to climb over the fence or walls to your pool or to neighbours who might have a swimming pool
  • Remove the steps from above ground pools when not in use

Implement these basic water-safety tips in and around your home to avoid tragedies like drowning and/or secondary drowning. Children are curious and we love it when they explore and we want them to learn, but not at a cost.

If you do own a swimming pool it is absolutely pivotal to ensure it is safe. There are so many options available including safety nets, automated covers, manual covers with high quality materials like rigid PVC or airtight and waterproof slats. Many people prefer a pool cover, as it enhances the aesthetic look of their pool, without compromising on security. It also decreases cleaning costs while saving the lives of your children and even your pets.

It’s not about instilling fear in their hearts or making paranoid-parents, but that prevention, vigilance, caution and responsibility is more important than unnecessary and regrettable loss.

* This article is proudly brought to you by Gerda Klopper from Designer Pool Covers

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