Drowning rates higher in Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw Times Herald - Editorial Staff
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National Drowning Prevention Week aims to raise awareness

The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute (SPI) is warning people to be vigilant and understand the dangers associated with drowning.

Drowning Prevention

National Drowning Prevention Week (July 19-27) is reiterating the importance of safety in and around water, especially as it pertains to children.

According to information from the SPI dating back to 2010, in Saskatchewan, drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children under the age of 10 and the leading cause for children under the age of five.

Drowning results in up to 30 per cent of deaths due to injury for children aged zero to nine.

“Children are not capable of understanding the dangers associated with water,” Lee Hinton, education and health promotion co-ordinator for SPI, said in a phone interview from Saskatoon.

Children can drown quickly and quietly – often because they cannot call or signal that they need help.

“I think people don't realize how simple it is for a young child to drown,” said Lee Hinton, education and health promotion co-ordinator for SPI. “I think that's where the problem lies.”

The 2014 edition of the Canadian Drowning Report – created by the Lifesaving Society – notes that between 2007 and 2011, there were 104 drownings in the province. That figure contributed to an increase in the water-related fatality rate, which was 1.6 in the previous five-year period, but rose to two per 100,000 people.

Although only preliminary data exists, the report notes that at least 27 drownings occurred in 2012 and 2013 combined.

Drowning death rates are also higher than historic national averages among children in Saskatchewan. For children under the age of 15, the fatality rate is 1.9 – more than double that of the national population.

Hinton says part of the key to decreasing drowning deaths among children is being aware of how much water it takes for them to drown and where that water could be.

In less than five centimetres of water for only 10 seconds, a young child could possibly drown. Many times this happens inside a home.

“People tend to think that little kids are safest in their house and that's one of the places where a lot drowning injuries actually occur, especially in the bathroom,” said Hinton.

Although the report states that only six per cent of drowning victims died in bathtubs, among children under the age of five, 67 per cent of them result because of a lack of adult supervision.

Hinton notes that children under the age of five should be no more than an arm’s length from reach when in water. Older children should, even if they know how to swim, be supervised at all times.

Information from the report also suggests that young adults could use supervision themselves.

The highest rate of drowning victims in Saskatchewan are 20 to 24-year-olds and 70 to 74-year-olds. The 20 to 24-year-olds contributed to 13 per cent of all drowning death in Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2011, with a death rate of 3.4 – 70 per cent higher than the national average for that age group.

“I think it's something that people should take a bit more seriously,” Hinton said of drowning. “It’s important that people re-shift how they’re thinking about it.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks



River, lake safety tips

Saskatchewanians enjoy cooling off on a warm summer day by jumping into a lake, or swimming in a river. However, there are risks associated with taking a quick dip.

The 2014 Canadian Drowning Report notes that between 2007 and 2011, 70 per cent of drownings in Saskatchewan occurred in natural bodies of water: 52 per cent in lakes and 18 per cent in rivers and streams.

While the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute (SPI) recommends children be taught about the dangers of river and lake safety, parents are advised to take first aid and CPR courses, as well as to learn about rivers, currents and undertows.

No matter what your age, wearing a personal flotation device adds to one’s safety while out in a river or lake, but especially for children who don’t know how to swim.

“One thing that could help is if you have children that are going to be near a river, be very aware of what the body of water is like,” said Lee Hinton, education and health promotion co-ordinator for SPI. “Sandbars can slip away and there can be danger to you as an adult, as well as to a child.”

– Liewicki

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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