The VOICE of Health

From Florida Hospital Apopka

Water is as much a part of us as we are a part of it — we need water to live, to thrive, to recharge. And in Florida, we are lucky to be surrounded by so many revitalizing slices of paradise.

Beach days. Pool parties. Lake trips. Water parks. Boating. Paddleboarding. Kayaking. You likely associate these activities with fun and sun-kissed smiles. But the water’s serenity is also met with equal doses of sheer force, and at times, a great unpredictability that can take a life in seconds.

When we flock to the water for amusement, we must also know that water demands a healthy dose of respect and heightened awareness to prevent water-related accidents, the most serious being drowning. That said, people often have misconceptions about what drowning is, what it looks like and how to help prevent it.

Is what you know about drowning wrong?

With the goal to help your family enjoy the water’s beauty safely, Dr. Mitchell Maulfair, Emergency Medicine physician at Florida Hospital, explains the facts.

Drowning Defined

“Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in a liquid,” explains Dr. Maulfair.

With this, there are varying levels of severity, from no injury to some injury and at the most serious end of the spectrum, death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”

This is just one unsettling statistic.

Drowning is the Third Leading Cause of Accidental Death Worldwide

“Worldwide, drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death, after deaths due to road traffic and falls, and in the United States, there are over 3,000 unintentional drownings per year,” states Dr. Maulfair.&

And in Florida, the numbers are staggering:
Florida leads the nation in drownings due to submersed motor vehicles
Florida ranks in the top ten for other forms of drowning
For children ages one to four, drowning is the leading cause of injury death in the US.
child age one to five is 14 times more likely to die in a swimming pool than a motor vehicle

These statistics are incredibly sad, especially to those medical providers on the frontlines who experience them firsthand.

Dr. Maulfair shares:

“I started working in the Emergency Department in 1995, initially moonlighting on Saturdays and Sundays. It wasn’t uncommon to get a toddler who had drowned. It was horrible seeing parent’s inconsolable grief. The entire department would be nearly paralyzed. This was a time when my wife and I had just started a family. So, having a toddler at home, it affected me so much, and it became part of the decision to work nights exclusively – as childhood drownings rarely happen at night.”

Perhaps the reason these stories are so heartbreaking is that most of these accidents could be prevented by understanding drowning risks, knowing what drowning really looks like, and implementing water safety measures.

Drowning Risks by Age

“The dangers of drowning change with age,” says Dr. Maulfair.

So, if you understand what the risks are, you can be more mindful around water. For example, if your baby is age one or under, you should know that bathtubs pose the greatest drowning risk — never leave standing water in a bathtub and always supervise your infant in the tub.

According to Dr. Maulfair, here are the greatest drowning risks by age group:

Birth to Age 1:
  • Bathtubs
  • Buckets
  • Toilets
Ages 1 to 5:
  • Swimming pools
Teenagers:
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Ocean

According to Dr. Maulfair, one surprising fact is that most teenage drownings occur (90 percent) within ten yards of safety.

And even though 20 percent of drownings occur in children ages 14 and under, it can happen to adults, too. Exhaustion, weak swimming skills, medical emergencies and trauma can all lead to accidental drowning.

Drowning is Often Silent

Thrashing. Splashing. Calling for help.

We’ve all seen this terrifying scene in a movie. And you might think this is what drowning looks like. If this is what you are looking for in a crowd of swimmers, you might miss the distressed swimmer struggling silently right behind you.

“Many drowning victims silently slip below the water’s surface,” explains Dr. Maulfair. You can’t count on hearing shouts for help — you must be vigilant if you are responsible for others around water, especially if there are many people around.

There is no Substitute for Supervision

Of all the swim safety tips, one stands out as the most important:

“Swimming lessons, even beginning as a baby, can be great experiences, but there is no substitute for supervision,” advises Dr. Maulfair. “To me, being “drown-proof” is about as comforting as knowing the Titanic was unsinkable,” he adds.

Dr. Maulfair explains that some parents mistakenly think that their infant or toddler’s swim lessons made them safe; however, after summer is over and they go several months without swimming, they will likely not remember what they learned by the following summer.

The same stands true for teens and young adults, who often engage in riskier behaviors that could increase their chances of a water-related accident.

Dr. Maulfair offers a helpful tip on how to always ensure adequate supervision.

Always Designate a Lifeguard

Certified lifeguards stand post at the community pool or public beach, but what about your home or neighbor’s pool?

“It’s surprising how children are at risk when adults are present, and it’s actually common in the case of drowning,” explains Dr. Maulfair. “People think that the more adults there are, the safer it is; however, what usually ends up happening, is that adults assume other adults are paying attention, with the result being that no one is paying attention,” he adds.

Dr. Maulfair accounts: “Having a pool in my home, and at one time three young children, my wife and I often had other parents bring kids to our house to swim. So, we made a rule: one parent would be the lifeguard, 100% on duty. The other was then free to socialize. We would then do a formal handoff, to give each other breaks. It worked out well.”

Turning Facts into Lives Saved

If you learned something from this article, we empower you to turn your facts into lives saved. Enjoy the water around you, but with caution and awareness for your safety as well as those around you, especially small children who carry the highest drowning risks.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The article states that Florida leads the nation in drowning due to submersed motor vehicles. With that thought in mind, I wish someone in authority would see that a barrier or strong cable would be installed along Piedmont Wekiva Road and 436 along the retention pond at the newly renovated shopping plaza there, between the pond and sidewalk along the road frontage. It is a very deep pond and only a few feet away from the cars flying by, and is a tragedy waiting to happen if a vehicle goes off the road, and into that deep pond. It would go down and sink before anyone could attempt a rescue. Plus the situation is even worse now, with the flooding. In a heavy rainfall, with vision impaired from the rain, it would be easy to misjudge where the roadway is and go off in there. I can’t believe something has not already been done. The authorities are taking care of retention ponds along the other roads, that aren’t near as close to the road as this one is.

  2. Maybe I am just freaky about retention ponds near roads as I never learned to truly swim. Just dogpaddle. I wasn’t raised near water, like water everywhere here in Florida, except a dam, and you didn’t swim there, or the rocky river that no body swam in. Plus, I have one lung that doesn’t fully expand, that I learned when I had a CT. Don’t know why either…..

  3. I checked out the newly renovated plaza there at 436 and Piedmont Wekiva Road, and went into the new Party City store. It is so nice. Also went in the newly renovated Bealls Outlet and big Bealls, they too are very nice. Checked out where Fuddruckers is coming in, and looked down the side where the old Zayre department store garden center used to be and the developers have really made that look so attractive with the fancy big palms and the shops that hopefully will be filled and the pavers…..NICE!

  4. Also the two story gym is going to be nice, when it gets opened. It will be open 24 hours, when they start up. I might have been that dedicated to exercise in the middle of the night, at one time, but not anymore, but it is going to be wonderful for the dedicated night owl exercise guru!

  5. When I was looking at the Halloween costumes, the décor, the balloons, everything at Party City, I got back in there to the “Over the Hill” section. Now this is what “bothered me”…..LOL….I saw “Over the Hill 30 year old items, “Over the Hill” for turning 40 years old, “Over the Hill” 50 years old items, and “Over the Hill” 60 year old birthday items, but then….nothing, no more, nodda…..LOL Should I be worried? Or what? Seriously.

  6. I like the renovated shopping center. I do miss Cici’s pizza place that used to be there, however. Wish they were still there. A sad day, when they left, for me. I liked their spinach pizza, and their bar-b-q pizza. Plus, you could try all the different kinds. A new billboard is now up in Apopka across from Robinson’s Restaurant on 441, and it is so big and red that you can’t miss it. I saw it, and got excited thinking Cici’s was coming back to Apopka, but no, it showed the locations to visit as Lake Buena Vista, Kissisimmee and I Drive. How cruel to get our hopes up…..LOL.

  7. Talking about the subject of drowning……one time, a long time ago, my husband and I were at NSB, and we had a rental float, and one minute, we were near the shoreline, surrounded by people playing in the surf, and the next minute we were way way out in the ocean! We saw the Volusia County Rescue Truck, and watched the lifeguards calling with the intercom, or whatever that device is called, and we started looking around us, to see who was in trouble, or who was drowning, and that is then when we realized it was us that they were calling in, and we had not even noticed just how far we were out in the ocean, as the rip current had carried us way out there! I know that sounds funny, but it is true. So my husband who can swim just like a fish, got us back to the shore, without the rescue unit’s help. It happens! If that had of been just me on the float by myself, without my husband, to get me back to shore, it would have been goodbye, adios. My hero, my husband.

  8. I understand that one of the Jacksonville football players pulled the football helmet off of one of our Apopka High School football players, and then threw some punches, and the game was called off, last night, at the game in Jacksonville. This was in the sports page of the Orlando Sentinel today, and my husband told me about it, as I hardly ever read the sports page. The game was called off with 5 minutes left. Wonder what they will do with the ” bad” boy? Ended with Apopka winning, 55 to 12, at the 1-yard line……huh?

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