Drowning risk triples when children turn one

23 October 2019

Royal Life Saving WA is urging parents and carers to be extra vigilant about water safety in the lead-up to summer, as statistics show toddlers remain more likely to drown than any other age group, with one-year old’s at the greatest risk. Royal Life Saving data shows that 41% of drowning deaths recorded among children under five in Australia occur in one-year-old toddlers.

Research figures show that, over the past 17 years, 496 toddlers under five years drowned in Australia. Of these, 202 (41%) were aged one year old – within the context of an entire lifespan, from 0 to 100 years, no other age is at greater risk of drowning. In WA this figure was even greater with one-year old’s accounting for half of toddler drowning deaths recorded during this time.

Most deaths in children aged one occurred in backyard swimming pools (59%) most commonly after gaining access through a faulty barrier, and during the summer months (44%). A majority of these drownings happened after a child accidentally fell into water, which accounted for 88 percent of deaths in this age group.  Almost all of these deaths were due to a lack of active adult supervision.

Lauren Nimmo, Senior Manager at Royal Life Saving Society WA, comments “Parents and carers need to know that the risk of drowning triples as soon as a child starts to crawl, peaking shortly after a child’s first birthday, so extra vigilance is required during this time."

“Drowning deaths in young children are wholly preventable. Making the home pool environment safer for young children remains a key focus for Royal Life Saving. We can’t emphasise enough how important active adult supervision is in preventing these deaths. Distractions are dangerous – whether it is taking a phone call, browsing social media or ducking inside to grab something – we ask parents and carers to always Keep Watch. In addition, it is essential that people install pool fences and check pool gates regularly to make sure they are not faulty or kept propped open.”

Since 2002, drowning deaths in children aged under five have decreased by 55%, but drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death in this age group. Miss Nimmo notes “Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch campaign has made significant inroads in helping to reduce drowning in young children over the past 25 years, but we know that by implementing simple safety measures and changing pool safety behaviours these numbers can be reduced further.”

Royal Life Saving's Keep Watch campaign has been running for 25 years. It recommends the following safety tips to keep children safe around water:

  • Actively supervise children around water
  • Restrict children's access to water
  • Teach children water safety skills
  • Learn how to resuscitate

The Keep Watch toddler drowning prevention campaign is supported in Western Australia by the Western Australian Department of Health and BHP. You can find out more about Keep Watch and read more tips about keeping children safe around water at the link below.

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