Lack of supervision biggest risk factor in children drowning

11th December, 2018 in

A new study has found seven out of 10 children involved in a drowning or near drowning were unsupervised. Mum Mata Henare knows how a moments distraction can lead to horror after her son nearly drowned. She used CPR to save his life.

It was the silence that made the hairs stand up on Mata Henare's neck.

She had been tending to her sick one-year-old about 10am after both had a sleepless night when the Moorebank mum realised she could no longer hear her two-year-old son, who she'd left watching cartoons on his iPad.

Instinct sent her looking for him.

Reza had pushed his bike up against the family's backyard pool fence and climbed over.

I saw him floating in the pool, he was lifeless. My mum was with me and pulled him out of the pool and I just grabbed him and started CPR. He wasn't breathing, she said.

Ms Henare had never learnt CPR but she'd see it on television and started as best she could.

I just did what I had seen on movies and I did a few pumps before he started breathing but his breathing was really shallow, the 33-year-old said.

Sue Wicks, Kids Health Department Head at The Children's Hospital at Westmead and co-author of the study said close and active adult supervision of children was the best preventive measure.

Children under five years are most at risk and if unsupervised they are at a great risk, she said.

Like Ms Henare, the study found simple distractions can be deadly.

Parents said they were more likely to be attending to another child or preparing food and a small number said they were looking at a phone.

Adults think they are supervising but they misunderstand how quickly and silently a drowning happens. We need to make it clearer to people what supervision actually means. You need to be close, in arms reach and you need to have your attention on the child all the time, she said.

For the under four age group 37 per cent of drowning incidents occurred while the child was unsupervised and the parent was unaware that the child was in or near water, but in 31 per cent of drowning incidents the parent was aware that the child was in or near water, while a further 12 per cent were supervised from a distance.

Those who survive a drowning incident can suffer a range of effects, from none though to severe brain and other organ damage. A child sustaining neurological deficits from drowning is likely to experience a lifetime of significant impairment, requiring sustained support from those who care for them.

A five-year study conducted by The Children's Hospital at Westmead investigated the long-term neurocognitive outcomes in children following a non-fatal drowning incident. The children recruited to the study had no apparent neurological problems on discharge and were followed up at three to six months, one year, three years and five years.

The study found that 22 per cent of the patients showed behaviour problems, poor communication, executive function and learning difficulties at some point during their follow-up.


(0-16 YEARS)

Non-fatal incidents

79% were 0-4 years old

36% were found in pools

23% in baths

68% were unsupervised

74% needed CPR

33% in pools because gate was propped open

85% found by family member

Jane Hansen

The Sunday TelegraphDecember 9, 201812:00am

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