American Academy of Pediatrics

Pediatricians Warn Drowning Risk for Kids May Increase During Coronavirus Pandemic

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging families to add extra layers of protection to keep children safe around water at home

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The hot weather has many looking for ways to cool off, but the American Academy of Pediatrics warns kids may be at an increased risk of drowning during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The most important thing is knowing where your children are and paying attention to them,” said Dr. Alison Tothy, a pediatric emergency physician at University of Chicago Medical Center.

That’s the purpose of a new public awareness campaign from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Nicole Hughes speaks out in one of the public service announcements. She lost her 3-year-old son Levi to drowning.

“During a family vacation, my son slipped out of a door unnoticed and drowned in a pool. My son was missing for less than a minute. Drowning is quick and it’s silent and it’s also preventable,” Hughes said.

With some public pools closed during the pandemic, families may be looking for other options.

“It's possible they'll end up in places that don't have lifeguards because they want to spread out and that puts kids at even higher risk,” Tothy said.

Families may also consider buying kiddie or inflatable pools, but with many parents multitasking as they work from home, that could be dangerous.

“I usually suggest assigning one person, calling it out by name, saying, ‘Hey you are going to pay attention to the kids in the water right now, and in 20 minutes I'm going to come pay attention,” Tothy recommends.

Drowning is the single leading cause of death for kids ages one through four.

Bode and Morgan Miller lost their 19-month old daughter Emme in 2018. Emme drowned at a neighbor’s house after she slipped out a back door. The Millers are participating in the AAP public awareness campaign because they believe drowning is preventable.

“We believe it should be the number one thing parents think about when it comes to safety,” Morgan Miller said.

Here are safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Assign an adult ‘water watcher’ to supervise children in water, who is not distracted by work, socializing or chores
  • All adults and children should learn to swim
  • All in-ground pools should have fencing with gates that self-close and self-latch
  • Inflatable or kiddie pools should be emptied when playtime is over
  • Life jackets are recommended for kids and adults when boating or in open water
  • Adults, caregivers and older children should learn CPR
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