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Sunday 8 December 2019

Children are 'most at risk of drowning near home'

Eilish O'Regan, Health Correspondent

Young children are most at risk from drowning when at home or near their house and when not supervised, a decade-long study has revealed.

Even the shallowest of ponds can be lethal for small children, and a water container just one-and-a-half feet deep poses a risk.

The medical files of 36 children admitted to hospital in drowning incidents over a 10-year period were examined in a study by the Department of Paediatric Intensive Care, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, and the Department of General Paediatrics in Temple Street Hospital.

Researchers found that more than a third of drownings happened during the summer months, and one in two occurred during a weekend.

Eight in 10 of the victims were boys, and children under seven years of age had the highest risk of drowning. Those younger than four years – which accounted for 41pc of incidents – were at the highest risk at or near their home, when not supervised.


Children older than four were at risk in public locations, especially swimming pools.

"Inappropriate supervision was recorded in 62pc of non-swimming-pool-related incidents," the authors pointed out.

"The prognosis was good for patients with a pulse present on arrival to an emergency department," it also found.

Out of six patients – who had no electrical activity in the heart recorded upon arrival to an emergency department – one died, three suffered brain injury and two recovered.

Children older than 10 had the highest risk of drowning, particularly in rivers and the sea, the hospital results showed.

The grim statistics come as the May bank holiday weekend marks the start of the swimming season for many families, who can underestimate the dangers posed by water.

The Irish Water Safety Association said there were 147 drownings recorded in 2012 – 19 more than in the previous year. The highest number of these tragedies happened in 1994, when 229 drowned.

Some of the contributory factors included: poor or inadequate equipment such as boats or lifejackets; not wearing a correctly-fitting lifejacket; alcohol consumption; overestimation of skills, and underwater entanglement.

Experts urged people to learn to use equipment before trying it out, pay attention to signs on the beach, never use air mattresses and do not swim alone.

Irish Independent

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