‘Pandemic gap’ puts children at greater risk for drowning this summer

Published: May. 28, 2021 at 8:45 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s being called the “pandemic gap” and it could be putting your kids at risk.

Swim lessons for many children have been put on hold during the pandemic and now they may be headed out to pools and lakes this summer season.

The water can be fun, but also dangerous.

Sadly, for children one to four years old, drowning is the leading cause of injury death, according to the CDC.

“That statistic is quite alarming. And over the course of the pandemic what we’ve seen is those numbers have increased,” said Clarey Collins, the curriculum development manager for Goldfish Swim School.

Her organization is trying to prevent drownings by teaching water safety and swimming skills.

She said babies are being exposed to the water for the first time right now and young kids are getting back into pools after time off from swimming.

“They’ve had a ‘pandemic gap’ if you will. So if they’ve had their children in swim lessons, then unfortunately they’ve had to take a break in that time,” Collins said.

Two-thirds of childhood drownings happen May through August, according to an organization Total Aquatics Programming.

Collins said drownings are not always loud and as obvious as you might think.

“Often drowning can occur right in front of a lifeguard or with parents present and they’re just not aware. Often it’s a silent action and can occur in as little as two inches of water,” she said.

That’s why swim lessons are so important.

Goldfish Swim School starts swim lessons with children as young as four months old.

They encourage teaching kids water safety early.

Collins said this one piece of advice is key for parents and caregivers to remember.

“Being vigilant, identifying a “water watcher” at all times, whose sole responsibility is just to watch that child or children around that body of water is absolutely essential to the success of water safety,” she said.

If you have a pool at home, Collins recommends putting up four-sided gates around it.

And you can get door and gate alarms to notify you if your child gets outside.

Warning signs of drowning from Goldfish Swim School:

• Drowning happens quickly. A child can drown in as little as two inches of water and in as little time as 20 seconds.

• Often, adults are around when a child is drowning but they are unaware of what is happening.

• Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that we see on television is rarely seen in real life. You will not see screaming kids flailing their arms! Constant supervision is important so you notice a child whose face has gone underwater or is struggling. If they are taking on water, they WILL NOT be able to shout out for help.

• Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

• Head low in the water, mouth at water level

• Head tilted back with mouth open

• Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus

• Eyes closed

• Not using legs—vertical

• Hyperventilating or gasping

• Trying to roll over on the back

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