Tag Archives: drowning

How do you cut death rates 17%?

27 Oct

The new CPR guidelines are out with all sorts of fanfare and media coverage. Great news and lots of new research and discussion over a critical tool that could save some of the 250,000 people who die of heart disease each year. But why not the same media focus on preventing the deaths in the first place?  How about this little-seen article with the staggering headline: Analyses: Heart Attack rates fall 17% after smokingbans enacted. (that was within one year and only with public smoking bans). http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-09-21-smoking-bans_N.htm

You all know my feelings about CPR – everyone should learn CPR, period. I think we need a serious re-think on our priorities though, especially when there is limited funding everywhere. Educating and preventing problems isn’t glamorous. It’s like being a parent – a long-term commitment, frequently involving nudging unwilling recipients, not always fun, but with real, positive, long-term outcomes. Plenty of research to support this very unglamorous, non-headline-grabbing methodology.  Educate boys and girl sand civil war decreases, poverty levels drop, economic prosperity increases.

What would happen if teaching water safety and swimming to children were mandatory?  Would the death rates from drowning drop 17% or more in a year?  I think so.  CPR is a crucial tool to save a life, but shouldn’t our focus be on not needing the tool in the firstplace?



6 teenagers die – whose fault?

4 Aug

Six teenagers drowned in Louisiana this week. The first fell off a ledge in shallow water and was rescued. Six of his cousins, who tried to save him, fell in and drowned while 20 family members looked on in horror.

The family is African-American and the grim statistics regarding that racial group has been brought forcefully to the public eye. A much higher percentage of African-American (and other minority) children drown, fewer are proficient swimmers, and perhaps the statistic that is the most worrying, there is a cultural norm that discourages water sports. It is imperative that this incident not be written off to uncaring or inattentive parents or to prejudicial views about a racial group. This problem is not unique to African-Americans – similar cultural norms around the world put children at risk. In large parts of Asia, swimming is associated with ‘lower class’ occupations and is discouraged among the ‘upper class’. In China, modesty in the changing rooms keeps parents from taking their children to swim lessons. In Africa swimming is actively discouraged, because of the dangers within the waters (hippopotamuses, crocodiles, bilharzia). In parts of the U.S., more affluent white children drown because of higher access to home swimming pools. Drowning is a global problem, it affects all of us, and yet our cultural views are allowing us to put our children at risk.

If children, ALL children, are going to be safer, there has to be a global shift in our attitude towards the water. Teaching children water safety must cut across culture, race, gender, geography. Parents must overcome their own fear and cultural-conditioning and recognize that teaching their children water safety and swimming is every bit as much a life-saving skill as fastening their seatbelt or learning to cross the street.

The family went to the river that day because being in the water can be fun, relaxing, refreshing on a blistering day – a great way to enjoy family time together. Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface. We can not survive without water. But we need to respect the water, we need to teach our kids to have fun in the water – safely.

For a podcast, please visit http://web.me.com/rebeccawr63


Children need CPR with rescue breathing – NOT hands-only

2 Aug

Did you see the latest news about CPR and how effective hands-only CPR is done to the great beat of ‘Staying Alive’? Here is one of the news clips if you missed it.


Yes, CPR can save a life, everyone should learn CPR, but thanks to one study that showed that bystanders are more likely to intervene if they don’t have to do mouth-to-mouth, hands-only CPR has gotten all the press. And it’s a great thing and has a great song (‘Staying Alive’) to help you get the right pace. And it can be very effective for an adult cardiac arrest victim. The problem is, for children and for all drowning victims, it is critical that traditional CPR, including mouth-to-mouth, be performed.

I checked to see what the latest research on the subject is and the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has the following in an article published May 24, 2010:

CPR Training:  Immediate resuscitation at the site of a submersion incident, even before the arrival of emergency medical services personnel, is an important means of secondary prevention and is associated with a significantly better outcome for children with submersion injury.2,3 For this reason, all parents and caregivers should be trained in infant/child CPR. Initial resuscitative efforts for a drowning victim should include rescue breathing as well as chest compressions when signs of circulation are absent.”Hands-only” CPR is not appropriate for drowning victims. The Heimlich maneuver is not recommended to expel water from the lungs, because positive pressure ventilation by mouth or maskwill accomplish adequate oxygenation.67 Additional CPR information and courses for parents and caregivers is available through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. Education for health care professionals on resuscitation of pediatric patients is available through American Academy of Pediatrics programs Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and PediatricEducation for Prehospital Professionals (PEPP).

The full text of the article can be found here:

Bottom line – if you have children, learn CPR, the traditional kind with rescue breathing and compressions. I know you wouldn’t have any problem performing mouth-to-mouth on your child if it would save their life – and that’s exactly what they would need.

Protect your child – learn CPR – with rescue breathing.


If they are in the water, why are they ‘Climbing the Ladder’?

12 Jul

There has been amazing response across the internet to Mario Vittone’s article on how to tell if someone is drowning.   Bottom line, no waving of arms, no screaming and it’s fast.  If you missed it, here’s the link again.  http://gcaptain.com/maritime/blog/drowning/

As a result of my last blog on the subject, I heard from a colleague in Australia, Jonathan, who has been a great source of information on water safety.  Jonathan told me that lifesavers in Australia are taught to look for someone ‘Climbing the Ladder’  What an amazingly simple message to identify someone who is drowning!  Three simple words that evoke a powerful visual image we can all relate to.  Vertical in the water, moving their hands up and down, not a lot of kicking.  I’d love for everyone to know the phrase ‘Climbing the Ladder’.   Know that if you see someone in the water ‘Climbing the Ladder’, they are drowning and need help – would you help me pass the word?


How much do you love your loved ones? Could you save them?

12 May

Two very different but similar articles caught my attention in the daily news feeds. Two stories of compassion, caring and courage. Two instances where valiant efforts were made to save a life. Where the stories diverge was in the relationships between the rescuer and the victim. In the first story CPR was attempted on the victim of a car accident. The would-be rescuer clearly was distraught and trying to help their beloved companion, instinctively using CPR to get the victim’s heart beating again. In the second story three teenagers witnessed a woman drowning, a stranger. Heedless to the lack of a ‘relationship’ with the victim, they leapt selflessly into the water, pulled the victim to safety and began CPR. In the first case the CPR was clearly untrained, a desperate attempt to revive a loved one. In the second, trained CPR may have saved the stranger’s life.

The big difference? In the first story it was a cat, in the second, people. I believe that we all possess an innate desire to help those that we love. I believe that most people would help a stranger in distress if they had the tools, the knowledge. Do you have the tools? Do you know CPR? Do you love your loved ones as much as the cat loved it’s companion? If a cat can try, so can you – get certified in CPR.



Did you know your child was at risk for drowning?

28 Apr

May is Childhood Drowning Prevention Month. When I first started working on drowning prevention I considered myself a pretty well-informed and safety-conscious mom. I was shocked to discover that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children in the U.S. Only automobile accidents pose a great danger to children. The statistics are the same for every developed country and even worse for under-developed countries.

I had no idea. I knew I shouldn’t leave my baby in the bathtub by themselves, but once they were stable sitting I’d dash into the other room to get clean clothes or something else I’d forgotten, confident they were OK for ‘a minute’. I made sure our pool had a fence and an alarm, but never thought about that ‘empty’ ornamental fountain at the back of the garden after days of rain when I let them play in the fenced-in yard. I’d watch my kids like a hawk when we were in the pool together (any pool), but on the day of our annual end-of-summer BBQ I’d trust that the mass of kids in the pool would raise the alarm if one got in trouble while the adults were within eyesight but talking and laughing and really not paying attention even though we’d have sworn otherwise.

I love the water. The best time I spend with my kids is in the water. I love watching the sheer exuberance on my son’s face when he’s dodging waves, doing cannonballs or just racing around having water gun fights. My heart swells with pride at every one of my kid’s accomplishment in swimming – whether executing the perfect dive or putting their face in for the first time. I will do anything to keep my kids in and around water – it’s good for their health and good for their soul – but I have also learned I need to be more vigilant. I will teach them water safety. I will watch them whenever they are near water. And I will protect them by knowing how to CPR if an accident does occur.

I know you love your child, so remember….Teach. Watch. Protect.


Does the death of a child affect the global economy?

10 Mar

When I was in grad school I had a professor in business law who raised a provocative question, ‘If a child dies is it an economic loss or gain?’ The question was raised in the context of wrongful death suits – should parents be compensated if they lose a child? My initial reaction was visceral and appalled – how could you possibly put a price on a child’s life? I don’t think many people are going to argue with the incredible emotional wealth that our children provide, but the more time I spend working on water safety and drowning prevention issues, the more I believe that we need to look at the hard economic reasons why water safety and drowning prevention should be a global priority at the highest levels of government, and not just a worry for individual parents.

Let’s look at the math – and excuse my back-of-the-envelope calculations since the numbers vary by agency and it’s hard to find hard numbers for any country. Estimates on how much it costs to raise a child range from $250,000 and up, not including college, which generally results in higher future wages. There are around 4 million children born in the U.S. each year, which makes an investment with a lot of zeros (I think $1 quadrillion). But, when these children reach adulthood, most of them will start paying back the investment by being wage-earning, tax-paying, contributing members of society. They will pay to raise the next generation. They will pay to support the older generation. They are, at the most basic level, the core investment that generates our economy.

What happens when a child dies? In the U.S. over 1,500 children die from drowning every year. For every child that dies, 4-5 children almost drown and many of these children require significant ongoing care and may never become economically contributing members of society. So let’s say that, very roughly, the U.S. loses an investment in raising these children of $750 million each year (6000 kids/year at 1/2 the total investment since they die before 18). And what about the lost future earnings for this investment? And the lost earnings of parents/caregivers who may have to reduce their workload to care for a permanently damaged child. Magnify that number significantly.

Now extrapolate that problem out to every developed country because drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in every developed country. Add in the fact that the International Life Saving Federation estimates that over 97% of drowning accidents happen in less-developed countries. Even with my rough, conservative calculations, I think that a compelling argument can be made that every country should put water safety and drowning prevention on their economic agenda as an urgent matter of economic security.

Some of the ‘hard’ numbers I could find:
One estimate puts the total annual lifetime cost of drowning for children under 14 at $6.8 billion per year.
Near-drowning has the highest average lifetime cost of any injury – $40,071 for each incident.
U.S. coastal drownings alone are estimated to cost $273 million/year.
Near drownings cost the California state government $5.4 million/year.

If anyone has any other ‘hard’ numbers, please forward them, I’m looking for as much data as possible.  Thanks!