Black children, adolescents have higher drowning rates at swimming pools: Study

By Anu Passary | May 18, 2014 02:07 AM EDT

A recent study suggests that black children face higher risks of drowning in swimming pools when compared to children of other ethnic groups.

On Thursday, May 16, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which suggests that black children in the age category of 5 to 19 had a drowning rate of over five times in swimming pools when compared to white children.

The report highlights that drowning accounts for around 4,000 deaths per year in the U.S. Drowning is also responsible for higher number of deaths in children who are aged between one and four years when compared to any other cause of death, barring congenital anomalies. Even for people who are 29 years or over, drowning is amongst the top three causes of unintentional deaths.

"With swimming pool drowning rates among blacks aged 5-19 years 5.5 times higher than those among whites in the same age group. This disparity was greatest at ages 11-12 years; at these ages, blacks drown in swimming pools at 10 times the rate of whites. Drowning prevention strategies include using barriers (e.g., fencing) and life jackets, actively supervising or lifeguarding, teaching basic swimming skills and performing bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The practicality and effectiveness of these strategies varies by setting; however, basic swimming skills can be beneficial across all settings," reads the report.

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According to the report, white toddlers are susceptible to drowning; however, the risk of drowning reduces for them when they reach age five and remains low afterwards. The researchers say that white parents have a higher inclination of getting their children enrolled for swimming lessons from a very early age. The report also says that black toddlers have a lower rate of drowning, but it increases as children grow older.

Dr. Julie Gilchrist, the lead author of the study, suggests that very few black children learn how to swim. Dr. Gilchrist also says that swimming is a dangerous activity and children should not just consider it similar to other sporting activities.

Dr. Gilchrist also opines that many parents do not consider swimming an important lifesaving skill. Whereas researchers believe that floating in the water, learning how to control breathing and swimming short distances is more important for children rather than learning swimming strokes.

The report also indicates that the drowning rate can be reduced by proper supervision of children near water, swimming in areas with lifeguards, using life jackets and teaching children basic swimming skills. 

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