With the return of hot weather, the risk of accidental drowning also returns. In France, accidental drownings cause approximately 1000 deaths each year. Small revision of prevention advice.
Accidental drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in everyday life among people under 25 years old. Each year they are responsible for around 1000 deaths in France about half of which between June and September.
Thus, this weekend, a 79-year-old woman who could no longer get out of the ocean, was narrowly saved from drowning by a walker in Morbihan. And that same day in Haute-Saône, an 11-year-old girl who was swimming in an unsupervised body of water, drowned and could not be revived.
“In summer, one in four accidental drownings concerns a child under the age of 6” recalls the Ministry of Sports, which in 2022 inaugurated new signage for bathing places and a dusting of tests prior to nautical activities.
The drownings accidental in children under 6 years old took place more in the pool (private or public). “The outcome of the drownings has rarely been fatal, certainly indicating that the child was caught quickly” explains Public Health France. Drownings in children are mostly due to the fact that the child does not know how to swim coupled with a lack or slackening of the supervision of the responsible adult during swimming.
In video: how to prevent drowning?
Learn aquatic ease from 3-4 years old
“To make the texts consistent and gain clarity, the test which allows access to the practice of nautical activities known as the “Aquatic Aisance test” becomes the Nautical Pass. This certificate can be issued at school, in a club, in an association, in a community. The test can be carried out with or without a safety vest and is aimed primarily at the youngest from 3 or 4 years old.
To show his ease in the water, the child will have to:
- Jump into the water
- Do a back float for five seconds
- Perform vertical levitation for five seconds
- Swim on your belly for 20m
- Crossing a water line or passing under a boat or a floating object.
In addition, the “know how to swim” certificate which was issued at the school and the federal Sauv’Nage which was issued by French swimming schools now give way to a single reference test: Attestation of safe swimming skills (ASNS). This certificate can be issued at school, in a club, in an association, in a community. The course to be taken must be carried out in continuity, without taking up solid support (at the edge of the pool, at the bottom or on any other element on the surface), without goggles. No constraint or time limit imposed. This 40-meter course includes: a ventral part, a dorsal part, obstacle crossings with total immersion, as well as standing still.
Those under 6 and those over 65 are more at risk
During the summer of 2021, the number of accidental drownings varied depending on the period: during the first half of June 2021, the higher number of accidental drownings compared to 2018 (date of the last survey) occurred in a context of the lifting of restrictive measures deployed for the management of the COVID-19 epidemic associated with climatic conditions favorable to swimming. The increase could be at least partially linked to a poor understanding of physical abilities or to a deterioration in the state of health at the end of a long period of less activity accompanied by weight gain.
During the first half of July and the first half of August, the lower number of accidental drownings compared to 2018 could be linked to the much less favorable climatic conditions for swimming (temperatures, sunshine) over a large part of the metropolitan territory. .
The two age categories most represented among accidental drownings are children aged between 0 and 5 years (25%) and people aged 65 and over (20%). Thus, last summer, the figures from the DROWNING 2021 survey conducted by Public Health France, reported 1,119 documented accidental drownings, including 250 followed by death (22%) between June 1 and August 31 alone.
Drownings in the elderly 65 years and more “take place more at sea and with more frequent organized rescue interventions in the morning, which may indicate that people are looking for less busy bathing times” insists Public Health France. However, an occurrence of discomfort is reported in half of drownings at sea which can thus lead to a significant proportion of deaths among these drownings.
Drowning: why should we be more vigilant in summer?
If swimming involves risks, these are particularly increased this summer due to the weather conditions which encourage swimming. It is moreover in 3 regions of the coast of the South of France, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Occitanie and Nouvelle-Aquitaine, that accidental drownings were the most numerous.
>> How to react if you witness a drowning? If there are witnesses, ask them to call 15, to intervene more quickly. Once the drowned person is out of the water, put him half-sitting on his side if he has a cough, difficulty breathing and/or vomiting; in recovery position if unconscious. If not breathing, give CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
At any age, it is important to follow these common sense tips:
- Do not swim after drinking alcohol
- Avoid bathing right after eating.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure before swimming.
- Wet your head, neck and stomach as you gradually enter the water to acclimatize to its temperature.
- Do not jump into the water without having acclimatized to the temperature to avoid hydrocution.
- Take your fitness into account: do not swim if you feel a physical problem (fatigue, health problems, chills) and do not overestimate your swimming level
- Tell a loved one before swimming
>> Beware of thermal shock: if it is very hot and the temperature difference between the air and the water is significant, you risk thermal shock with loss of consciousness, which can lead to drowning.
How to prevent children from drowning?
Knowing how to swim is the best precaution against drowning, even if it does not prevent all the risks. While swimming in the sea is supervised (always choose beaches equipped with lifeguards), private swimming pools are not. So: do not let your children swim alone. Keep all the attention on your child, without doing anything else, or looking at your smartphone screen! Every summer, accidental drownings cause about 50 deaths in children under 13 years old. A lack of supervision is noted in 1 out of 2 drownings.
- Bathe with the children or designate an adult responsible for their supervision.
- Equip them with quality armbands (bearing the CE marking and the NF 13138-1 standard) or buoys appropriate to their age, weight and size.
- Don’t be absent, even for a few minutes.
>> If you have an individual swimming pool : secure it (tarpaulin, partitioning, alarm) and remove all toys from the surface of the water so as not to attract children.
Your child has “drank the cup”: how to know if it is a drowning?
If your child is not as usual several minutes after drinking the cup, and in particular if he has one or more of the following signs, you must quickly notify the emergency services:
- He is tired or tends to fall asleep.
- He has blue lips.
- He is coughing or short of breath.
- He vomits.
>> How to know if it is a dry drowning? The health authorities regret the media coverage in recent years of what is called “dry drowning”. After “swallowing the cup”, water would manage to flood the lungs and ultimately cause drowning several hours or days after swimming. A concept which “is not based on any scientific or medical basis”, notes Public Health France.
At sea, watch out for the weather
At the seaside, find out about the weather conditions and, in general, respect the safety instructions, the bathing bans and choose the supervised bathing areas indicated by the bathing flags, where the intervention of the teams of rescue is faster
When swimming in the sea, remember to equip your children with armbands and take them with you when swimming, an open water swimming buoy. Always favor swimming at the edge of the shore. In case of high tide, big waves, inconvenient weather, avoid swimming and taking your children into the water.
If, on the contrary, it is very hot, pay attention to the temperature differences between your body and the water. Remember to stay hydrated to avoid losing your means in the water. And be careful to cover your head when you are on the boat, sunstroke could make you more vulnerable and less reactive during swimming.
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