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Child’s drowning in pool on July 4 in Jacksonville is a safety reminder

Child’s drowning in pool on July 4 in Jacksonville is a safety reminder

Child’s drowning in pool on July 4 in Jacksonville is a safety reminder

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The drowning Thursday of a 3-year-old boy during a Fourth of July gathering amplifies the need to be cautious about how a child’s lungs can fill with water in a matter of seconds and about pool and water safety, especially in the scorching heat of a Florida summer.

Jacksonville police and fire rescue personnel responded to a drowning call at a home on Blackbeard Drive near San Pablo Road around 3 p.m., Times-Union news partner First Coast News reported. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said when family members began searching for the boy, they found him unresponsive in the pool. They began trying to save his life until the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department arrived.

The boy was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Detectives do not suspect foul play and are classifying the incident as a “tragic accident.”

Drowning and how to prevent it

As heat waves continue this summer and more people are tempted to cool off, the tragedy is a reminder about pool and water safety.

Before parents let their children have fun at the pool or beach, they should remind them how to prevent drowning, Eduardo Cuevas reported for USA TODAY. Drowning incidents are on the rise in the U.S., according to a recent federal health report. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4..

“It doesn’t have to be this way; it’s totally preventable,” said Adam Katchmarchi, executive director of the nonprofit National Drowning Prevention Alliance. “It’s up to every family to get this information to keep their kids safer.”

Swimming deaths surpassed pre-pandemic numbers in 2019, with 500 more deaths each year from 2020 to 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. More than 4,500 people died from drowning each year from 2020 to 2022. Deaths are more common among Black and Indigenous people, in part due to historical barriers to aquatic recreation and a lack of swimming lessons in communities of color.

Drowning tragedies can happen to anyone: This is what parents need to know

CDC researchers said the findings highlight the urgency for caregivers to be aware of prevention strategies, especially since professionals who know the basics aren’t around. The pandemic disrupted supervised swimming environments and lessons that were once available during the summer. Without lifeguards and teachers to disseminate information, parents are left to shoulder the burden and train themselves in basic swimming and water safety, the researchers said.

In early summer, USA TODAY is sharing five simple steps from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance for parents to protect their children around water.

Choose pools with barriers, gates.

Many drowning deaths occur outside of swimming hours, when no one expects children to be in the water, said Dr. Erin Muckey, medical director of the Emergency Department at Rutgers University Hospital and a professor of emergency medicine.

Parents should install self-closing or self-latching gates or alarms to prevent unsupervised children from accessing the pool.

“This is something we should be thinking about at the community level,” Muckey said.

Keep a close eye on your children in the water.

Muckey said constant monitoring can be a big help when kids are in the pool. A designated spotter who isn’t distracted and isn’t texting or eating, but simply keeping an eye on the kids in the water, can be a big help.

According to the World Health Organization, young children are at a higher risk of drowning. Parents are often distracted while supervising younger children in the water. It is critical for parents to remember that older teens may engage in risky behaviors, such as drinking alcohol while swimming, the organization said.

Children ages 1 to 4 are at the highest risk of drowning. After this group, the second highest rate of drowning is among people ages 65 and older. In 2022, there was a 19% increase in the number of people ages 65 to 74 who drowned compared to before the pandemic in 2019. A 2021 federal report listed drowning as a major life-threatening hazard for older people in pools, bathtubs, and spas.

Learn to swim

Swimming isn’t just about jumping in the water. Knowing how to swim requires some training. According to the CDC, about 40 million American adults, or 15% of all adults, don’t know how to swim. More than half of all adults have never taken a swimming lesson.

More than a third of black adults say they cannot swim, while nearly two-thirds of black adults and nearly three-quarters of Latino adults report they have never taken a swimming lesson, the CDC said.

People don’t know how to swim for a variety of reasons. In the CDC report, researchers urged more community education in areas where people have historically been excluded from pools or beaches because of racism and segregation. Some people avoid swimming because of the cost of lessons or pool membership. Others are afraid of the water or uncomfortable in bathing suits.

It’s never too late to learn to swim, no matter your age. Classes are available through the American Red Cross, the YMCA, and other programs.

Use approved life jackets

People venturing into open water or boating must wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Children can use floatation devices or a floatation belt in the shallow end of the pool if a parent accompanies them. This can help new swimmers gain confidence in the water. However, these devices are not designed to keep children afloat with their faces out of the water, Muckey said.

While on the lake, parents must equip their children with approved life jackets.

Prepare for emergencies

CPR training is critical in the event of a drowning emergency. That means parents, guardians and babysitters should prepare ahead of time. Having a trained first responder on site can save lives. The American Heart Association and the Red Cross offer information on finding a training location near you.

It’s also important to have a charged phone on hand to call 911. Experts suggest that supervisors stay alert with their phones at the ready. In other words, they shouldn’t be scrolling through social media while watching children in the water.