PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Perhaps one of the scariest parts of a child drowning is not what parents hear, it’s what they don’t hear.
“They can drown in a matter of seconds without you even know they are under the water,” said Patty Davis, spokesperson for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Everybody thinks that if somebody is drowning, you are going to hear them splashing and screaming — that’s not how it works for children.”
Drownings are the number one leading cause of unintentional deaths in children ages one to four.
With summer in full swing, experts want adults to be aware of this avoidable accident and to take every precaution they can. Davis said parents must become water watchers.
“The most important thing is to watch your kids,” Davis said. “Assigning one person to watch the kids when they are in the water, especially if they are ages one to four.”
Certified ISR instructor, Michelle Waldrip said it’s important to have layers of protection like a pool fence, a gate, and a pool alarm. But even the best parents can get distracted.
“I’ve had about probably five parents let me know that their child has fallen in the pool and they have used their skills,” Waldrip said, “I know that it works and I know that it’s real.”
Waldrip said it’s never too late to teach water survival skills but the earlier the better. Kids can be trained from as young as 6-months-old on how to rescue themselves if they fell into the water while no one is around.
New mom Susan Valazquez said she signed her 1-year-old, Magnolia up for lessons because she knows accidents happen.
“Her grandma has a pool at her house and we go to the beach often so water safety is important,” Valasquez said, “Even though you are always vigilant in watching them, they can be sneaky and you don’t want them to get close to the water without knowing how to save themselves.”
Waldrip said the ISR training she gives children that extra time they need to make noise and let an adult know they are in trouble.
“Giving your child the ability to roll on their back and float and have air is just that extra barrier of protection,” Waldrip said. “They can float on their back until someone can rescue them.”
Waldrip has been teaching from her home for five years now and said it takes a lot of trust from the parents to hand over their little ones. She has kids of her own and understands their pain.
“The toughest thing is just hearing them fuss and protest a little bit, but I know they are learning skills,” Waldrip said. “It’s kind of like putting a child in a car seat — sometimes they cry, they don’t want to be strapped in the car seat but we do it because we know it makes them safer.”
Valasquez said the experience as a whole has been an amazing one.
“It’s amazing how fast they learn it,” Valasquez said, “it’s also nerve-wracking. I hold my breath watching her, and then she looks at me like ‘help mom, get me,’ but you know she is safe in the water with Michelle.”
Waldrip said a child doesn’t have to die on the spot for it to be considered a drowning — they can have a delayed reaction to the water in their lungs after a major struggle in the water.
“Dry drowning or secondary drowning is not a real medical term, it’s more of a delayed drowning.” Waldrip said, “When that happens there is a drowning incident in the pool typically where they have swallowed or inhaled a lot of water.”
Waldrip said a child can die hours after the incident.
“Instead of finding them at the bottom of the pool where it was a fatal drowning, it happens hours after,” Waldrip said.
Waldrip said a trip to the ER might be a good idea if you do find your child in the pool, still alive. She said there are signs to look out for after a drowning incident.
“Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, color changes, and coughing,” Waldrip said. “Any type of respiratory manifestations.”
Davis said on average there are 379 fatal drowning deaths each year to kids younger than 15.
“The majority of those deaths are to kids younger than 5-years-old,” Davis said. “About half of those were related to the lack of adult supervision.”