Every summer, more than 500 children are victims of drowning accidents. ATIn order to recall the importance of permanent supervision of children when swimming or when there is a swimming pool nearby, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sports, in partnership with the National Consumer Institute (INC ), launch a impact prevention campaign drownings.
In very short videos, three mothers testify. All three lost a young child to drowning. Their children, aged 1.5 to 2.5 years, managed to escape their vigilance, outside bathing time. Elodie, mother of Noah, aged 2 and a half, Véronique, mother of Kalista, aged one and a half, and Karine, mother of Joey, aged 2 and a half, have agreed to tell their story, their tragedy, to alert parents.
“It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown. No safety device replaces your vigilance. You care about them, don’t take your eyes off themrecommends a voice-over at the end of each testimonial.
Accidental drownings: the numbers
To better determine the causes of accidental drownings and adapt prevention campaigns, a survey is carried out every three years by the ministries concerned. This DROWNING survey aims to identify all accidental drownings and to describe the circumstances of their occurrence and the characteristics of the victims. To do this, it relies on information collected by questionnaires from the emergency services.
During the summer of 2021, 1480 accidental drownings have been recorded“a figure down 10% compared to that of the summer of 2018 which amounted to 1649 and held the record for all the DROWNING surveys “underlines Public Health France. The share of deaths was comparable in 2021 (27%) and in 2018 (25%). “This drop in the total number of accidental drownings can be explained in particular by climatic conditions that are not very favorable for swimming (temperatures, sunshine) over a large part of the metropolitan territory during the period summer 2021.
The proportion of deaths (number of deaths in relation to the number of drownings) is higher among drownings occurring in bodies of water (49%) and in waterways (41%) whereas it is 25% in sea, 15% in swimming pools of all types and 14% in other places. THE drownings accidental in children under 6 years old took place more in swimming pools (private or public). “The outcome of the drownings has rarely been fatal, certainly indicating that the child was caught quickly” explains Public Health France. Drownings in children are mostly due to the fact that the child does not know how to swim coupled with a lack or relaxation of the supervision of the responsible adult during swimming.
>> Especially those under 6 and those over 65. In 2021, drownings were more numerous among young people and older people. A total of 332 children under the age of 6 drowned accidentally (they represented 23% of those drowned). 377 people aged 65 and over drowned (26% of drownings).
Drowning: why should we be more vigilant in summer?
If swimming involves risks, these are particularly increased this summer due to the weather conditions which encourage swimming. It is moreover in 3 regions of the coast of the South of France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Occitanie and Nouvelle-Aquitaine, that accidental drownings were the most numerous.
>> How to react if you witness a drowning? If there are witnesses, ask them to call 15, to intervene more quickly. Once the drowned person is out of the water, put him half-sitting on his side if he has a cough, difficulty breathing and/or vomiting; in recovery position if unconscious. If not breathing, give CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
At any age, it is important to follow these common sense tips:
- Do not swim after drinking alcohol
- Avoid bathing right after eating.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure before swimming.
- Wet your head, neck and stomach as you gradually enter the water to acclimatize to its temperature.
- Do not jump into the water without having acclimatized to the temperature to avoid hydrocution.
- Take your fitness into account: do not swim if you feel a physical problem (fatigue, health problems, chills) and do not overestimate your swimming level
- Tell a loved one before swimming
>> Beware of thermal shock: if it is very hot and the temperature difference between the air and the water is significant, you risk thermal shock with loss of consciousness, which can lead to drowning.
Drowning: how to prevent a child from drowning?
Knowing how to swim is the best precaution against drowning, even if it does not prevent all the risks. While swimming in the sea is supervised (always choose beaches equipped with lifeguards), private swimming pools are not. So: do not let your children swim alone. Keep all the attention on your child, without doing anything else, or looking at your smartphone screen! Every summer, accidental drownings cause about 50 deaths in children under 13 years old. A lack of supervision is noted in 1 out of 2 drownings.
- Bathe with the children or designate an adult responsible for their supervision.
- Buy him a flashy colored jersey (fluorescent for example) to better spot it in the water and follow it with your eyes.
- Equip them with quality armbands (bearing the CE marking and the NF 13138-1 standard) or buoys adapted to their age, weight and size.
- Don’t be absent, even for a few minutes.
>> If you have an individual swimming pool : secure it (tarpaulin, partitioning, alarm) and remove all toys from the surface of the water so as not to attract children.
It should be noted that in 2021, 65 drownings took place in places other than the sea or the swimming pool, such as a bathtub, an inflatable swimming pool, a basin, etc. which represents 4% of accidental drownings.
Drowning: what is dry drowning?
Your child drank the cup and you wonder if it is not a beginning of drowning or a “dry drowning”? The health authorities regret the media coverage in recent years of what is called “dry drowning”. After “swallowing the cup”, water would manage to flood the lungs and ultimately cause drowning several hours or days after swimming. A concept which “is not based on any scientific or medical basis”, notes Public Health France.
However, if your child is not as usual several minutes after drinking the cup, and in particular if he has one or more of the following signs, you must quickly notify the emergency services:
- He is tired or tends to fall asleep.
- He has blue lips.
- He is coughing or short of breath.
- He vomits.
Drowning: how not to drown at sea?
At the seaside, find out about the weather conditions and, in general, respect the safety instructions, the bathing bans and choose the supervised bathing areas indicated by the bathing flags, where the intervention of the teams of rescue is faster.
When swimming in the sea, remember to equip your children with armbands and take them with you when swimming, an open water swimming buoy. Always favor swimming at the edge of the shore. In case of high tide, big waves, inconvenient weather, avoid swimming and taking your children into the water.
If, on the contrary, it is very hot, pay attention to the temperature differences between your body and the water. Remember to stay hydrated to avoid losing your means in the water. And be careful to cover your head when you are on the boat, sunstroke could make you more vulnerable and less reactive during swimming.
>> What is the Nautical Pass? “In summer, one in four accidental drownings concerns a child under the age of 6” recalls the Ministry for Sports, which inaugurated in 2022 new signage for bathing places and a dusting of tests prior to nautical activities.
“To make the texts consistent and gain clarity, the test which allows access to the practice of nautical activities known as the “Aquatic Aisance test” became the Nautical Pass. This certificate can be issued at school, in a club, in an association, in a community. The test can be carried out with or without a safety vest and is aimed primarily at the youngest from 3 or 4 years old.
To show his ease in the water, the child will have to:
- Jump into the water
- Do a back float for five seconds
- Perform vertical levitation for five seconds
- Swim on your belly for 20m
- Crossing a water line or passing under a boat or a floating object.
Drowning Awareness CampaignConsoMag, June 2023
Epidemiological surveillance of drownings. Results of the 2021 DROWNING surveyPublic Health France, June 2022