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Drowning is leading cause of accidental death among kids between 1-4: Report

The Consumer Product Safety Commission report showed that from 2019-21, an average of 358 children under 15 years of age lost their lives each year

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Pool and beach weather is finally upon us, so it’s time to start digging out your family’s bathing suits and swim trunks, but your child may be at risk and you might not be aware of it.

All it takes is a few seconds for a child to accidentally fall in and drown in a swimming pool. The Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) recent report published on Thursday showed that accidental drownings continue to happen very often. 

Ella Tatanco is 3 years old and enjoys her swimming lessons, while her 2-year-old sister, Mila Tatanco, doesn't. She cried during her lesson, in fact. Their parents, Sabrina and Adrian Tatanco, enrolled them in the Kendall Bug Mission program not only so they learn how to swim, but primarily to learn how to survive.

“Being safe and being able to breathe — that’s initially what we’re concerned with in the survival aspect of the program,” said Katrina Blanc, who runs the Kendall Bug Mission, which focuses on preventing childhood drowning by pushing for more survival swimming programs for all families. 

The organization was born to honor the memory of Blanc’s daughter, Kendall, who was 2 years old in 2019 when she died after falling into a pool. Blanc said she sometimes feels like she’s holding her daughter when she holds her students’ heads above water, teaching them to do it on their own.

“I have, sometimes, little flashbacks, and there are moments that I get a little emotional, but, honestly, it’s the biggest blessing for me to be able to provide that for other families,” Blanc said.

Nikki Fleming is with CPSC, which released its annual drowning and submersion report on Thursday. It showed that drowning continues to be the leading case of accidental death among children between 1 and 4 years old.

“Drownings happen quickly and silently," Fleming said. "It’s not like in the movies with flailing arms, splashing and noises."

Their latest data showed that from 2021-23, an average of 6,500 children under the age of 15 years old were treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal drowning incidents. The majority of them were under the age of 5.

The report also showed that from 2019-21, an average of 358 children under 15 years of age lost their lives each year. The majority, again, were younger than 5 years old.

Besides the pool survival skills that Ella and Mila are being taught, parents should also assign an adult to constantly monitor children in a pool area. They should also place barriers around a pool in compliance with California law. This includes self-latching gates, pool covers and door alarms. 

“Many drownings happen during a non-swim time when no one may be in the pool area but the child has gained access,” Fleming said.

Pool owners should also make sure they have safe drain covers and know how to perform CPR.

“This can be a critical moment between the time an emergency happens and when emergency personnel can arrive,” Fleming said.

The report also points to a need to spread this message across marginalized communities.

Meanwhile, Blanc regrets one thing: “We can’t go back and change what happened with our family and what happened to Kendall, but we can make a change with the families and the community.”

Blanc also stressed the need for children to wear life jackets when they're in the water.

The city of San Diego provides a learn-to-swim program designed to teach children, teens and adults to swim in a positive, safe and fun environment. The lessons are offered year-round. 

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