Most people are not aware that drowning can take place anywhere and anytime. Parents tend to be vigilant whenever they bring their children to the pool or beach; however, is there a possibility for drowning to occur at home?
Throughout the past 10 years, I have seen children drowning at home in bathtubs, buckets, water tanks, fish ponds, and even inflatable pools. The oldest patient was a 9-year-old boy who tripped headfirst into a bucket of water! In most cases, parents would often say, “I just saw him….he was in the kitchen just a moment ago… I just turned around and she was missing!” Indeed, drowning is silent, and it only takes a minute.
In Malaysia, drowning is the major cause of death in children, ranking second after road traffic accidents, for children aged 1-18 years. About 500 unfortunate children drown each year in Malaysia. About 90% of these cases occur below the age of 10 years, more so in children less than 5 years.
Most non-fatal drowning victims recover fully. However, in children with severe brain damage; memory problems, learning difficulty, or severe loss of basic functioning, i.e. permanent vegetative state is possible.
How do you reduce the risk of drowning at home?
✅ Children, especially those below 5 years, should never be left unsupervised in the bathroom.
✅ Always keep the toilet lid down to prevent children from accidentally falling headfirst into the toilet.
✅ Remove all sources of standing water. Drain bathtubs, keep buckets empty and turned upside-down, cover water tank with a heavy lid. For households who are still using water storage, be sure to empty it after bathing.
✅ For any water activities involving children, a dedicated adult should be around to observe without any distractions. Hence, no phones, no books, no socializing, just full concentration ahead! The use of life-vest or floaties should never replace adult supervision.
✅ Inflatable pools should be drained and deflated after usage.
✅ For families with swimming pool, installing a 4-sided gated fence around it will prevent children from coming close to the water.
✅ Put sturdy grills or fences around fish ponds or better yet fill it up to transform it into a flowerbed or sandpit while the children are still young.
Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Hence, be cautious and eliminate all sources of standing water in your home.
1. Dr Amar-Singh HSS : Why are so many Malaysian children drowning in hotel swimming pools and theme parks – Malaymail Monday, 04 Nov 2019 https://www.malaymail.com/…/why-are-so-many-malaysi…/1806564
2. Sarah A. Denny et al.: Prevention of drowning from American Academy of Pediatrics May 2019, 143 (5) e20190850; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-0850
3. Unintentional drowning: Get the Facts https://www.cdc.gov/…/water-sa…/waterinjuries-factsheet.html