Drowning deaths among babies and toddlers still “too high”

Parents are again being warned to pay more attention after 21 children aged four and under drowned in Australian waterways over the past year.

Experts urge parents to stay within arms reach of babies and toddlers when swimming because it can take as little as 20 seconds and just centimetres of water for little ones to drown.

Drowning deaths were up five per cent on last year to 280, according to the 2015-16 Royal Life Saving Society Australia’s (RLSSA) National Drowning Report.

The warning for parents comes even though the number of under five-year-olds to drown is 30 per cent below the 10 year average.

Kidsafe general manager Jason Chambers tells Babyology it’s great to see infant drownings declining but more needs to be done.

“It is positive to see the rates of drownings are going down overall but 21 deaths in just that zero to four age group is still a lot of incidents,” Jason says.

“We hope rates continue to come down but it’s still important there are awareness campaigns and messages being provided to parents about what they can do to reduce the risks of those drowning incidents happening.”

Here’s a video highlight the key findings in the RLSSA report.

Jason tells Babyology there are a number of things for parents to keep in mind to prevent children, aged zero to four, from drowning.

“The best tip that we have is for there always to be an adult who is actively supervising children, whether that is in or around water, at all times,” Jason says.

“When we are talking about active supervision, particularly with toddlers, we mean there is an adult within arms reach at all times.”

Jason says it can take just 20 seconds for a toddler to drown and anything that can hold a few centimetres of water can pose a drowning hazard.

“Even a dog bowl containing water can pose a danger to particularly young children because they can be quite top heavy and can struggle to get themselves out if they fall in,” he says.

“Drowning is also silent, it can be quite different to what we see in the movies and on TV when people are splashing and calling out.”

In 2013 the Australian Government gave $15 million over five years (up to 2017-18) to the Royal Life Saving Society, Surf Life Saving Australia and AUSTSWIM to improve water safety in homes, pools, rivers and coastal waters and to teach water safety to children in early education.

This year an additional $11 million was put towards helping Surf Lifesaving Australia in their efforts to increase water safety.


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