Pediatrician gives advice on drowning prevention for children


To the editor:

Thank you for reporting the remarkable story of Emma Sullivan and her friends, the Oakville High School graduates who saved a drowning teenager at Johnson’s Shut-Ins earlier this month. Their story is remarkable both for their bravery and for just how closely the 19-year-old victim escaped tragedy—he was resuscitated after 10 rounds of bystander-provided CPR while paramedics raced to the remote scene.

Every year in our country, about 370 young people aged 10-19 years die from drowning. Tragically, that number rises to about 500 deaths yearly for children aged 1-4 years. In 2019, the United States lost more 1–4-year-olds to drowning than to cancer.

Young children drown most commonly in swimming pools and at times when no one was expected to be swimming. Drowning is silent and happens in minutes.

Heroes like Sullivan should inspire us to protect each other by entrenching safe swim practices in our community. Children should always be watched when they are around the water by an adult who knows CPR. Private pools should be surrounded by fences on all sides, especially the side that faces the house. Pediatricians like myself should screen for swimming competency at the 5- and 6-year well-visits, and help refer families to affordable swim lessons at our community centers and YMCA.

Dean Odegard