Florida loses more children under the age of five to drowning than any other state. Enough kids to fill four preschool classrooms drown every year. In fact, according to the 2010 Florida Child Abuse Death Report, the main cause of child-neglect deaths in Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties was from drowning. “There were 13 deaths of precious children reported through drowning,” said Nancy Dreicer, NE Region director of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Last year’s victims under the age of 10 had drowned mostly in swimming pools, the report shows, while those over 10 lost their lives in natural waterways. Local drownings happen year round, but it’s this time of the year that we become mindful of the importance of swimming lessons.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids ages 5 and under use US Coast Guard approved life jackets at all times while around pools. The advice is to never swim alone, especially in the Northeast Florida beaches where even expert swimmers are no match for rip currents.
Of course, the ability to swim doesn’t always prevent tragedies. Caution does. And here is when the parent’s advice becomes imperative. Rule number one is to teach children not to panic. They should avoid violent action and calmly but steadily strive to refrain from inhaling while under water. It’s important for them to remember to keep the head raised as much as possible, and gently but constantly move hands and feet. This should keep most afloat until aid arrives.