With summer comes increased threat of drowning

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A study just published in the journal Pediatrics says during the warm summer months a child dies every five days in the United States while playing in a portable pool.

The rate of drownings increases in Hawaii during the summer, but the vast majority of drownings happen in the ocean.

"The ocean is a hazardous environment," said Jim Howe, Operations Chief with Honolulu's Ocean Safety Division. "What we do see is an increase in the number of young people, in particular, and folks that may be on a summer vacation heading down to the beach during the summer months. So there is a lot more activity with more folks there. We do tend to see more incidents taking place," Howe added.

During the five year span from 2006 through 2010 319 drowned in Hawaii. Of that 319, 253 drowned in the ocean, 31 drowned in swimming pools, 21 drowned in rivers and streams, and ten drowned in bathtubs.

"In Hawaii we have anywhere between roughly 60 to 70 drownings in total each year, and around 80% of those, so around 50, are specifically ocean drowning," said Dan Galanis, epidemiologist with the Hawaii Department of Health Injury Prevention & control Program.

Adult supervision is one of the keys to prevent drowning.

"It can be just a minute or two there's kind of a lapse in supervision and that can be all it takes for a child to get into trouble," Galanis warned.

"Parents, you've got to watch your children all the time when you are around the ocean, or a pool for that matter. Don't let them slip away," Howe added.

In addition to supervision people are advised to swim with a friend. They are urged not to use foam or air filled toys in place of life jackets. And anyone who plans to go in or on the water should learn how to swim.

"That's very important, especially living on an island. You want to go to the beach. You got to know how to swim," said Omar Zaldana, Aquatics Director at Nuuanu YMCA.

The YMCA offers Learn to Swim classes. "At about three years old we start teaching treading water because treading water's really the corner stone skill. If you can't tread water, you kind of can't swim," Zaldana said.

The City and County Department of Parks and Recreation and private companies also offer instruction on how to swim.

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