Childhood Drownings Don't Take A Break For Winter

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 

People tend to think of drowning as a summer safety risk, but Children’s Health in Dallas has witnessed a statistical anomaly between the rise of warm-weather versus cold-weather drowning fatalities. It’s been reported that 7.8% of drownings at Children’s Health were fatal during the colder months, whereas only two percent of drownings were fatal during the warmer months.

And in less than two months, Children’s Health has seen six accidental drownings.

Jesus Alderete, Senior Injury Prevention Coordinator at Children’s Health, says that although most accidental drownings do occur during the warmer months, we can attribute this dramatic rise in cold-weather drownings to two major issues.

First, caregivers are letting their guard down during the winter months because swimming isn’t usually associated with colder seasons. Therefore, a caregiver doesn’t typically investigate swimming areas when a child goes missing inside the home.

Second, sometimes parents will have just moved into a new house or built a new pool and are not up to date on the safety requirements needed to stop an accidental child drowning.

Children’s Health is finding the most prominent age for drowning-related accidents to typically occur when a child is around 2-3 years old. This is because a child of this age can typically wander outside of the house and fall into the pool when something, such as a toy, or just the wave and lull of the blue waters, catches their attention.

Alderete tells Scary Mommy that caregivers with pools should have:

– A non-climbable fence around the pool

– Children enrolled in swimming lessons

– Accurate knowledge of CPR

– Locks and alarms installed to every window, door and doggie door leading to the pool

– A clean pool with easy visibility to the bottom

“If a child goes missing inside the home, the first place a caregiver should look is the pool followed by the car,” Alderete stated.

Drowning is preventable, and it only takes seconds for it to happen to a little one in the family.

Alderete says that a drowning is “silent” and “never like the movies,” because drowning victims do not yell or call for help.

“It can take as little as 10 seconds for a child to have an adverse outcome if submerged. In some cases, parents that had a submersion incident would state they were only gone or looked away for a second,” Alderete stated. “The time that it takes to respond to a text, answer a phone call or sign for a packet at the front door is enough time to have a child submerged and have a fatal outcome.”

Nicole Hughes, a mother of three who lost her youngest son Levi to accidental drowning while on vacation this summer, can attest to this. In a recent article written by Hughes, she states that he was only away from her side for seconds before noticing that he was missing.

“I was the one who found him, face down, in the deep end,” Hughes wrote. “Just moments before this horrific discovery, I split a brownie with him. I still had the other half of the brownie in my mouth when I jumped into the pool to grab my son. Mere moments, seconds.”

When asked to speak about accidental child drowning, Hughes told Scary Mommy, “In order to break through the barriers of drowning prevention, our society must completely shift our perception on water safety. Parents assume that drowning grants time or a warning, that there is splashing and yelling. But, drowning is silent, and it can happen in less than one minute. Tragedy does not play fair.”

Like any parent who has survived the tragedy of child loss, Hughes never thought that this would happen to her. She says that it is painful to admit that she used to believe childhood drowning only happened to neglectful parents, because it can happen to anyone… even when it is a “non-swim time” and the little one is wearing “khaki shorts.”


“I wish I had known that drowning is a silent epidemic, marching onward and snatching innocent childhoods every day. I will never stop wishing that I had given Levi a chance to fight. Survival swim lessons, a four-sided fence around the pool, and pool alarms are all important in preventing this silent death,” Hughes tells Scary Mommy.

Tragedy in childhood drowning doesn’t just stem from large bodies of water either. According to the CDC, drowning kills more children 1-4 years of age than anything else other than birth defects. And that does not exclude drowning inside of a home either.

Alderete says that Children’s Medical Center Dallas had two bathtub drowning accidents in 2017, nine in 2018, and one, so far, in 2019. Furthermore, he says that their message has always been the same: “Parents and caregivers should always be actively supervising their kids in and around the water.”

“Parents should also be aware that it only takes one inch of water for a child to drown; this is enough water to cover a child’s mouth and nose. Specifically for toddlers and infants, they are top heavy, and if they fall forward, they may not have the strength to lift their head above water,” Alderete stated to Scary Mommy.

It’s also important to note that if your child was submerged under water for any length of time, you should contact their physician even if they are conscious. The fact is, dry drowning can and does happen, and it only takes six tablespoons of water to kill a child.

Alderete says that while there are minimal to no symptoms of dry drowning, every child is different and “may show different signs or complications after a submersion.”

Signs that caregivers should be on the lookout for include:

– Any abnormal behavior

– Breathing issues

– Excessive or prolonged coughing

– Lethargy

– Confusion

Alderete tells Scary Mommy that in spite of all of this grim news, “The great news of all of this is that drowning is preventable and if the right precautions are taken, summers and any activity in the water can bring a family closer.”

This article was originally published on