LDH: Safe Swimming Practices Lead to Decrease in Child Drownings

Recent data from the Louisiana Department of Health's Office of Public Health shows drowning deaths among children dropped 40% between 2021 and 2022, reflecting a positive shift toward safe swimming practices in our communities. 

Drowning remains the third leading cause of injury-related death for Louisiana children ages 0–14, following motor vehicle crashes and homicides. Children ages 1–4 are at the highest risk for drowning, making it the leading cause of injury-related death in this age group. The most common risk factors in child drownings include lack of supervision (52%), inability to swim (49%), and absence of proper barriers (38%).

“Drowning deaths of children are very preventable,” said Gina Lagarde, MD, chairwoman of the State Child Death Review Panel and the medical director for LDH Region 9 (Northshore). “Children can drown quickly, within minutes, and silently, without any splashing, crying, or calling for help. It is very important to keep young children within arm's length, and never leave children unattended when in or near water.” 

To prevent drownings and promote water safety, LDH recommends the following steps:

-Active supervision: Designate a responsible adult to actively watch children in or near water, without distractions, and ensure weaker swimmers are within arm's reach.

-Teach swimming skills: Enroll children in swim lessons tailored to their age, development and exposure to water. Ensure they learn essential water survival skills.

-Install proper barriers: Erect 4-foot-tall fences with self-closing and self-latching gates around home pools to prevent unsupervised access.

-Use life jackets: When boating or participating in open-water activities, ensure children wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets appropriate for their weight and activity.

-Educate about open water: Teach children the unique challenges of swimming in open water, including limited visibility in murky water, changes in depth, uneven surfaces, and hazards.

-Learn CPR and water rescue: Caregivers should learn CPR and basic water rescue skills to respond effectively in emergencies without endangering themselves.