Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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I’m A Mom And I’m Pissed Off. (About Child Safety)

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on October 31, 2012


I’m a mom and I’m pissed off. Not a bit concerned. Not even angry. I’m pissed off as in, ‘I have a flame thrower and I’m not afraid to use it’ pissed off. Why? Because child safety is about as big a mom issue as you can get, and yet children keep drowning and no one is talking about it. We all know ‘stop, drop and roll’, but did you know that drowning kills more children in the U.S. every year than fire and gun accidents combined?  If that didn’t get your attention, how about drowning kills as many 1-4 year olds as fire, transportation accidents and accidental suffocation/strangulation combined.  When it comes to how to keep children safe, if we don’t start talking about water safety, we simply aren’t keeping our children safe.

It will take you two minutes to read this blog. It only takes two minutes to drown, two inches of water to drown, and in that time two children will drown, because one child drowns every minute. IF we had accurate statistics (and don’t get me started on that), I could state without qualifiers that drowning is as big a killer of children as malaria, one of the ‘top three’ killers according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But noooo, 59% of WHO members don’t even report drowning deaths.  As a mom, can you imagine your child’s life being considered so insignificant that it doesn’t even count? That pisses me off.

Don’t worry though, I have enough statistics to (hopefully) make you as pissed off as I am.

  • Children under 5 have the highest drowning mortality rates worldwide *
  • Drowning is responsible for killing more children ages 1-4 in the U.S. than any other cause except birth defects. Two is the most dangerous year.
  • For every child that drowns in the U.S., another five almost drown and more than 50% of those children require further care. Permanent brain damage starts to occur within one minute.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14 in virtually every high-income country, but it is truly a global epidemic and a global mom issue.

  • 96% of drowning deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
  • Most children drown before age 4. 2 is the most dangerous year.
  • In Asia, where 2/3 of the world’s children live, drowning is responsible for almost one out of every five deaths from all causes for children ages 1-18.

As for the total number of children who drown every year? Officially it’s around 409,000, but we know that 59% of WHO countries don’t capture drowning deaths, so most experts estimate the number is at least double or triple that.

The great news? Drowning is preventable.

So what can you do?

First and foremost, teach your child about water safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to begin swimming lessons for kids as young as one. But don’t just stop at swim lessons, talk to them about water safety at all ages. Make it positive, repetitive and age-appropriate. You don’t want to scare them, you want to teach them, just like you teach your children to wash their hands and cross the street safely. SafeKids has some great advice.

Second, make your environment safe. The CDC has some great tips.

Third, get pissed off. Let’s make this a mom issue, because keeping children safe is what we do. If I’ve convinced you, just drop me a note at rebecca@rebeccawearrobinson.com or leave a comment. Let’s start talking about it.

Here’s some of the sites where I got my stats if you want to read more: CDC SwimSafe.org  WHO Fact Sheet

* (except in Canada and New Zealand where it’s adult males)

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