A lifeguard shortage in many parts of the U.S. means an increased drowning risk at pools and beaches this summer. Earlier this summer, SciLine interviewed Linda Quan, a pediatric emergency medicine physician and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, about drowning risks and what people should know to keep themselves and their children safe.
The Conversation has collaborated with SciLine to bring you highlights from the discussion.
Can you share some statistics about drowning in the United States?
Linda Quan: About 4,000 people die every year from drowning in the United States. It’s one of the three leading causes of unintentional injury and death of those under 29 in this country. Toddlers, those 1 to 4 years of age, have the highest drowning rates of all age groups. And that’s true throughout the world. The recurring scenario in our country is that these toddlers fall into their home pool, to which they’ve gotten unsupervised access.
The second-highest drowning rate is among teenagers in most states. This age group, and adults, drown mostly in open water – that means lakes or rivers, the ocean or ponds, and usually they’ve been swimming or boating in those settings.
We’re also seeing an emerging epidemic of drowning among adults over age 45. And this hasn’t been well studied, but it’s mostly men, when they’re fishing or boating or swimming and not wearing life jackets. About 50% of the time, they’re drinking alcohol.