Drownings in Kentucky waterways this year already surpass all of 2019

According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, there have been 33 drownings this year. There were 32 in all of last year.

Kentucky already has had more drownings this year than all of 2019, even while public pools are closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

So far this year, there have been 33 drownings in Kentucky’s lakes, reservoirs and streams. Nearly half of them — 14 — have occurred since May 23, the Saturday before Memorial Day. The commonwealth recorded 32 drownings in all of 2019.

With pools now scheduled to open at the end of June, parents and guardians need to keep an eye on their children to ensure they stay safe in the water.

“It’s concerning that we’ve seen a rise in drownings even before many pools are open,” said Brit L. Anderson, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine physician with Norton Children’s Hospital. “While many people are aware of the risks of swimming pools, it’s important to remember that other bodies of water can be dangerous, including ponds, rivers, drainage ditches and even bathtubs or backyard wading pools.”

Children require constant, attentive supervision when they are in water,” Dr. Anderson said. “If there are multiple adults, they need to communicate to make sure someone is watching the water without distraction. Drowning often is silent and can happen quickly.”

Swimming safety for kids

  • Don’t swim alone –— that applies to adults too. Use the buddy system so there’s always someone looking out for you and loved ones.
  • At least one adult should supervise children around water at all times. Don’t let yourself get distracted by talking with friends, reading, drinking alcohol or using your phone when it’s your turn to supervise. Adult supervisors should be trained in CPR.
  • If you own a pool, make sure it has a fence completely surrounding it, separating it from the house.
  • Teach children lifesaving skills, such as how to float on their back, tread water and move to the side of the pool to climb out.
  • Don’t rely on inflatable toys and water wings to keep a child safe. Children can easily fall off toys or slide out of wings and slip under the water. If the child is using inflatables, you should be right there standing by them in the water, especially if they cannot swim.
  • Kentucky law requires each occupant of a boat to have ready access to a U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket.Children younger than age 12 must wear a lifejacket while in the open portion of a boat.
  • Most boating accidents, particularly among teens, are related to alcohol. Be sure teens know about the dangers of alcohol, on and off the water.

In the United States, approximately 800 children drown each year, and it’s the No. 1 cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4, according to SafeKids.org. As two-thirds of these drownings occur from May to August, the summer months are especially important to make sure your children are safe in large bodies of water.

According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, nearly 90% of child drownings happen when at least one adult is present.

More on water safety


Norton Children's Hospital

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