Drowning-related deaths are on the rise in the U.S., CDC reports

Teaching children to swim at an early age would greatly reduce drowning deaths, the CDC says - UnSplash +

The organization shares its best tips for keeping children safe this summer

With Memorial Day right around the corner, and summer vacation not too far away, kids are spending more and more time outside and in the pool

However, a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that drowning-related deaths have gone up in the U.S. for the first time in decades. Ahead of the summer season, it’s important for parents to know the best ways to keep their little ones safe while swimming. 

“I’ve seen firsthand the effects of drowning: families forced to say goodbye to their loved ones too soon,” said Dr. Debra Houry, CDC’s chief medical officer.

“CDC’s drowning prevention experts collected high-quality drowning data to better understand how we can protect people in communities across the United States. Understanding the barriers people face to accessing basic swimming and water safety skills training can help us better understand how to address those barriers, decrease drowning rates, and save lives.” 

An increase in drownings

According to the CDC’s most recent data, over 4,500 people drowned in the U.S. between 2020 and 2022. This figure marked an increase in drowning-related deaths, and experts say it’s about 500 more drownings than were reported in 2019. 

The two age groups most susceptible to drowning are children between ages one and four, and adults over the age of 65. In 2022, drowning-related deaths increased by nearly 30% for kids between one and four and nearly 20% for adults over 65. 

The research also showed that American Indians or Alaska Natives, as well as Black people, had the highest drowning rates among racial and ethnic groups. 

Overall, 55% of adults in the United States have never had a swimming lesson. Those numbers increase among racial minorities, as 72% of Hispanic people and 63% of Black people have never taken swimming lessons. 

Preventing drowning

The CDC recommends that communities across the country do their part to help enhance water safety. Their first recommendation is to make swimming lessons more accessible. 

“No one should have to lose a loved one to drowning,” said Tessa Clemens, Ph.D., lead author of the CDC’s latest drowning report. “Improving access to effective prevention strategies, like basic swimming and water safety skills, can reduce drowning risk.” 

By creating more community pools that offer access to all people, and hiring staff at local pools that represent the communities can help bridge the gap between water safety and local residents. 

The CDC also encourages consumers to practice water safety at all times, including: 

  • Having fences that separate pools from houses

  • Watching and monitoring all children by the pool – even those who have taken swimming lessons

  • Avoiding alcohol when doing any swimming or water-related activities 

  • Wearing a life jacket whenever on a boat 

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