Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In this dry Intermountain region, Utah's drowning rates are higher than the national average.
The National Safety Council reported that 5,000 people drowned in 1988. These statistics include boat accidents, swimming, playing in the water or falling in. They exclude drownings in floods or other cataclysms. An estimated 70,000 people almost drown each year. Even this figure does not give the whole picture, because in many survival cases, the incident is not reported.The highest number of drownings occurs in children under 1 year of age, and nearly 70 percent of these accidents occur in the bathtub. Drownings can happen in the time it takes to answer the telephone.
Outdoor drownings tend to occur 20 to 60 seconds after a victim falls into deep water. The average time it takes to start drowning is 40 seconds. This does not mean that deaths will occur this fast. Still, unless a rescue is made, death is likely.
Often, people don't try to revive the victim. It is not true that if a person has not breathed for four minutes, it is too late. In fact, the world record for survival was broken in Salt Lake City by a 2-year-old child. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the child made a full recovery after spending 66 minutes underwater.
The peak months for drownings are June through August. Alcohol is a major factor in up to 50 percent of all drownings. High levels of blood alcohol are common in boating and fishing accidents. Alcohol can also be a factor in drowning deaths in hot tubs, swimming pools and bathtubs.
Health conditions can also lead to drowning; a seizure may occur during swimming or bathing.
A high percentage of drownings occur as a result of not wearing a life jacket. A drowning victim may also have a head or neck injury.
Therefore, whenever rescuing a victim, always consider this: Support the head to avoid damage to the spinal cord if the neck is injured.
A rescued person is not out of danger. The victim may be embarrassed and not want further attention or may wish to go home. A "secondary drowning" can occur up to 72 hours after the rescue. A "secondary drowning" is the result of respiratory distress or a form of pneumonia setting in. Every near-drowning victim should be hospitalized for observation.
Most drownings can be prevented. Supervise children, use life jackets, avoid alcohol around water activities and learn to swim. All of these precautions can greatly reduce the chances of drowning. Sadly, drowning outdoors most often happens within 10 feet of safety.