Drowning Risk

July is one of the worst months for child drownings and the Independence Day holiday is an especially dangerous time. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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The combination of literally thousands of neighborhood, private and apartment pools along with intensely hot summer days, gives Houston higher drowning numbers than many other metropolitan cities. Brenda Thorne with the Houston Department of Health and Human Services says between 2000 and 2004, the city recorded 190 drowning and near-drowning incidents.

"Though submersion injuries occur all year round, majority of them occur during the summer months, especially the month of July. These are the months when people like to go outdoors, go to swimming pools and unfortunately this is where majority of the submersion injuries occur -- swimming pools, especially in apartment complexes."

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of one and four. But Susan Hirtz with Texas Children's Hospital says a recent survey of Houston parents shows 42 percent of them were unaware that a child could drown in as little as two inches of water. She says drownings can occur under the most vigilant care.

"One parent was tending his child on the steps of the pool and just looked away, for a moment, to help his mother with a barbeque grill. This is a good parent. He just turned his head for just a moment and the child went under. And when he pulled him back up, less than a minute later, he was blue and stiff."

That child survived after family members performed CPR, but it can take as little as one minute under water for permanant brain damage and even death to occur. Health officials have recorded 13 drownings and submersion injuries so far this year, and the summer has only begun. That's roughly equivalent to this time last year, but it's nearly double the amount of drownings in 2003 and 2004. Hirtz says parents should take CPR classes and enroll young children in swim lessons. She also says inflatable flotation devices and pool toys do not prevent drownings and children should instead use life jackets or swimsuits with built in floats. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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