Child water-safety concerns following spike in Sydney drownings

Child water-safety concerns following spike in Sydney drownings
Image: Alexandr Podvalny/Unsplash


Experts urge parents and carers to stay vigilant of children swimming in and around water, after four children have been hospitalised for non-fatal drownings in Sydney over the past week.

The Sydney Children Hospital Network warns of drownings as being a leading cause of death and injury in Children under five-years-of-age, with non-fatal drownings potentially causing long-term health concerns.

From January till the end of October, 38 children have visited Westmead and Randwick’s Sydney Children’s Hospital following a drowning event. With the Summer period ahead attracting more swimmers, concerns for toddlers and infants continue to rise.

Guardians to prepare

Dr SV Soundappan, a trauma surgeon at Westmead Children’s Hospital, says guardians should take extra care with children around water and be prepared incase of an emergency.

“Unfortunately, drowning incidents can happen to any child, so it is crucial for all parents and carers to know how to keep children safe around water and what to do in the event of an emergency,” said Dr Soundappan.

Furthermore, Dr Soundappan said adults should keep children “within arm’s reach… at all times” when they’re in or around water. They also mention the significance of teaching water safety and “critical” swimming skills.

“It is vital to build a child’s familiarity and confidence around water, for example, through supervised aquatic play, setting rules and discussing water safety in a variety of locations,” Dr Soundappan continued.

Sydney Children’s Hospital Network advises guardians to keep vigilant and encourage breaks for children when swimming. They also recommend people learn or revise CPR.

Ahead of the swimming season, parents and carers should check fence security  around pools and that all swimming aids are tested for faults.

Leading cause of deaths

Drowning remains one of the leading causes of deaths for children under the ages of five, with risks tripling once a child turns one.

According to research by Royal Life Saving, children aged one represent 40 per cent of drowning deaths in children under five years old – with 222 deaths recorded – over the past 20 years.

Whilst drowning-deaths for children have significantly reduced over the past 20 years, there is an average of 27 drowning incidents every year. 38 per cent of deaths also occur over the summer period, between December and February.

Whilst older adults represent the highest number of pool drowning-deaths from last year (24 per cent), Toddlers and infants are the second highest age range, representing 14 per cent of deaths.

SCHN explains that children-drowning deaths are one of the most preventable, with Royal Life Saving noting 77 per cent of drowning incidents occurring from accidental falls.

Reiterating calls, Royal Life Saving CEO Justin Scarr says to “keep watch” of children around water and for guardians to be prepared.

“If there is a lapse in supervision, a correctly installed and regularly maintained pool barrier can prevent your child from drowning,” Scarr explained.

“As children become more mobile, they are curious and unpredictable… We are reminding parents that ‘Kids can’t help themselves around water, you need to.”

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