In the past two decades, the number of children and teens who have died each year from an accidental drowning has declined significantly — from 1,127 in 1999 to 756 in 2019, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That 371 reduction in deaths amounts to a bit more than a one-third fall in the rate of unintentional drownings among youths under 18. Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to have drowned, and drownings were more common among those living in rural areas than among urban dwellers. Nearly all drownings of infants occurred in bathtubs, whereas swimming pools were the most common sites for those ages 1 to 13. For teens 14 to 17, drownings occurred most often in natural bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers or oceans. The CDC report, developed from the agency’s collection of vital statistics nationwide, does not note factors that raise the risk of drowning or preventive steps that could be helpful. But a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),“Prevention of Drowning,” points out such risk factors, including youths overestimating their swimming ability, the tendency of teens to take risks, and lapses in supervision by adults who are reading, talking on the phone or otherwise distracted while children are in the water. To prevent drownings, the AAP says that supervision, especially of young children in and around water, should be close, attentive and constant. It also stresses the importance of swimming lessons, use of life jackets, and having secure fencing and gates around pools. And experts agree that a young child should never be left alone in a bathtub — even briefly.
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