Stay water safe this Easter break

22 March 2016

It is predicted to be unseasonably warm throughout Queensland this Easter which means Queenslanders will likely be cooling off in the water.

Unfortunately, this also means more children will end up in hospital emergency departments after nearly drowning.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children under five and Queensland Health is urging parents to be extra cautious when their children are in and around water.

Queensland Children’s Hospital Emergency Department Senior Medical Officer Dr Ruth Barker said this year emergency departments have seen a concerning number of presentations following a drowning incident.

“Last month alone, 48 children presented to Queensland emergency departments following a drowning incident – almost double the 26 children seen in February 2015,” Dr Barker said.

“Parents and families who have been through this ordeal often say they never thought it would happen to them and could not believe how quickly and quietly the events unfolded.

“As an emergency doctor I have seen firsthand the devastation these incidents cause families and I’m really hoping to see fewer kids in our emergency departments these holidays.”

Dr Barker also said providing first aid, specifically CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to a drowning victim as soon as possible could significantly improve their survival chances.

“The first minutes after a drowning are very important, and CPR should commence immediately after rescuing a victim from the water. CPR should be given to any child that appears lifeless, as their heart may have stopped beating.

“It is important to watch children at all times while they are in water, whether it is a backyard pool, a public pool, the beach or a dam. Relying on a child to tell adults when they are in trouble does not work. These tragic incidents happen in a matter of seconds.

“We recommend all adults learn CPR so they know what to do in the event of a drowning,”Dr Barker said

General Manager of Aquatic Achievers Swim School Rob MacFarlane said it is important to impart water safety behaviours into children from a young age.

“Children are naturally inquisitive and drawn to the water,” Mr MacFarlane said.

”So from a very young age, even around three months, we try to associate different safety behaviours with the water, such as floating on their back and hanging onto the side of the pool.

“Then we increase their confidence in the water and as they age they progress to actually learning how to swim.

Royal Life Saving Society Queensland Executive Director Michael Darben said parents can never be too careful when it comes to supervision and water safety.

“Many parents don’t realise that drowning can be silent and quick. Water can still be dangerous even for children who are competent swimmers,” Mr Darben said.

“Children in difficulty cannot always wave or call out, and they silently slip to the bottom, even in a busy public pool.

“There are four key actions every family can take to prevent childhood drownings— supervise, restrict access, water awareness and learn to resuscitate.”