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Drowning risk triples when children turn one

Keep Watch 2019
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23/10/2019

Forty-one per cent of drowning deaths among children under five in Australia occur in one-year-old toddlers, according to data published by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia.

Research figures show that, over the past 17 years, 496 children aged 0 to four years drowned. Of these, 202 (41%) children aged one year drowned – within the context of an entire lifespan, from 0 to 100 years, no other age is at greater risk of drowning.

Most deaths in children aged one occurred in backyard swimming pools (59%) and during the summer months (44%). Accidental falls into water was the leading activity prior to drowning in this age group, accounting for 88% of all deaths. Almost all of these deaths were due to a lack of active adult supervision.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, drowning is the number one cause of death in one-year-old children (ABS 2019).

Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, comments “Parents and carers need to know that the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts to crawl, peaking shortly after a child’s first birthday.

Drowning deaths in children aged 0 to 4 years

“Drowning deaths in young children are wholly preventable. Making the home pool environment safer for young children remains a key focus for Royal Life Saving. We can’t emphasise enough how important active adult supervision is in preventing these deaths. Distractions are dangerous – whether it is taking a phone call, browsing social media or ducking inside to grab something – we ask parents and carers to always Keep Watch. In addition, it is essential that people install pool fences and check pool gates regularly to make sure they are not faulty or kept propped open.”

Since 2002, drowning deaths in children aged under five have decreased by 55%, but drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in this age group. Mr Scarr notes “Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign has made significant inroads in helping to reduce drowning in young children over the past 25 years, but we know that by implementing simple safety measures and changing pool safety behaviours these numbers can be reduced further.”

Drowning deaths in Australia from 2002/03 to 2018/19

Royal Life Saving Australia’s Keep Watch public awareness and education campaign has been running for 25 years. It recommends the following safety tips to keep children safe around water:

  1. Actively supervise children around water
  2. Restrict children’s access to water
  3. Teach children water safety skills
  4. Learn how to resuscitate

For more information about Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign click here. 

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