More young children die from drowning than any other cause of death
During the dog days of summer, there’s nothing better for a kid than to splash around in the pool.
But that’s also where the danger lies.
More young children die from drowning than any other cause of death in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 4 and the second leading cause of death for children under 14.
That's what Tuesday's World Drowning Prevention Day wants to raise awareness on and it's also something 7-year-old Kaiser Bess learned in swim class.
“If you can't swim, then you can drown. And then from drowning, you could die,” he said.
Bess has been taking lessons since he was 4 years old. "I think my mom just signed me up without me knowing.”
Experts say the best way to prevent drowning is for children to learn to swim and get comfortable in the water as early as possible so they don’t panic.
Mara Davis, a swim instructor at William A. Wagner Aquatic Center in Oceanside, said the best technique to teach children to prevent drowning is the back float.
"Because if you can do a back float, you can kind of lay there for as long as you need. It takes no effort, no energy," she said. "So if there is a case where they are stuck in the water, they can just float for as long as they need without getting tired and can stay as safe as possible."
But as County Supervisor Jim Desmond notes, not everyone can afford swimming lessons.
“The CDC has said that 79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 a year have little to no swimming ability,” he said at an event for World Drowning Prevention Day in Oceanside.
The county has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to various organizations to give free swimming lessons, including the Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego.
The organization received $250,000 last year for its swim lesson and water safety program.
"This is an effort that I've prioritized here at the county, along with Chair Nora Vargas,” Desmond said.
The more exposure children have to the water, the more enjoyable their experience can be. That's why local parent Carla Garrett has enrolled her son in swimming lessons since he was 2.
“We go to the beach a lot, so it's important for them to know how to swim and for me to feel safe just watching them and not having to go in the water every time," she said.
Experts note children should never be left unattended near the water. A child can drown in as little as 20 seconds.