Health and Family Services Cabinet
Prevent Child Drownings this Summer; Practice Water Safety

Press Release Date:  Friday, June 27, 2008  
Revision Date:  Friday, June 27, 2008 
Contact Information:  Media contacts: Lisa Wallace or Beth Crace Fisher
(502)564-6786, ext. 4013 or 4012

Note to editors/producers: This is one of a series of news releases being issued as part of a joint Fourth of July and summer safety campaign by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the State Fire Marshal's Office, Kentucky State Police and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The campaign addresses fireworks safety, drowning prevention, boating safety, food safety, sunburn/skin cancer prevention and West Nile Virus information. Please visit our Summer Safety Web site at for all campaign releases and to download audio/video PSAs and other resources.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 27, 2008) - The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is working to raise awareness of drowning risks for children and youth, especially as swimming and boating season kicks into high gear.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drownings among children increase 89 percent in the summer over the annual monthly average.

From 2002 to 2007, 92 children and youth - infants to age 18 - died from drowning in Kentucky. This number includes preliminary, unpublished data for 2006 and incomplete preliminary data for 2007, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).

The majority of drowning victims (41) were children younger than 4. The rate of drownings dropped off for children ages 4-13 (17), but increased among children 14-18 (34). One-year-old children had the highest incidence of drownings, 15 during the five-year period. No drownings were recorded for the period among 12-year-olds.

Swimming pools account for 60 percent of all drownings in this country, and boating is involved in about one-fifth of all drownings.

"This time of year, Kentuckians flock to local lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds and pools for summer recreation," said Pat Wilson, commissioner of the CHFS Department for Community Based Services. "It's important for everyone to follow basic water safety rules, and it’s especially important that all children in and around water have responsible, sober adult supervision.

Drowning is the third leading cause of injury death (after motor vehicle crashes and choking/breathing-related deaths) among children 1-14 years old in Kentucky. Nationally, more than one in four victims of fatal drowning are children 14 and younger. The majority of child drownings in the U.S. occur in the home - in bathtubs, buckets and residential pools. For every child who dies from drowning, another four receive emergency department care for near-drowning injuries.

Among children older than 14, 63 percent of drownings occurred in rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of fresh water.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, the three leading preventive contributing factors to child and youth drowning are lapses in adult supervision, alcohol and inadequate swimming ability.

Reducing the incidence and severity of injuries from unintentional causes is one of the goals of Healthy Kentuckians 2010, a long-term public health policy plan that stresses prevention and equity.

“Drowning is a preventable cause of childhood death, said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. At home, on vacation, at the public pool, it’s the responsibility of adults to supervise children around water and to make sure children aren’t put at risk by unattended drowning hazards, like buckets of water and wading pools.”

By definition, drowning is fatal; however, for each drowning death, it is estimated that at least one to four children suffer a serious near-drowning that can result in permanent disabilities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these suggestions to reduce the risk of drownings:

Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.

Always swim with a buddy. Whenever possible, select swimming sites that have lifeguards.

Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.

Learn to swim. Swimming instruction is not recommended as the primary means of drowning prevention for children younger than 4. Constant, careful supervision and barriers such as pool fencing are necessary even when children have completed swimming classes.

Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, arm floaties, noodles or innertubes, as a substitute for life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone's life. CPR performed by bystanders has been shown to improve outcomes in drowning victims.

For more summer safety tips and resources, visit the CHFS Summer Safety Web site at



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