Pediatricians warn of higher drowning risk for children during coronavirus pandemic

DETROIT – Pediatricians are warning parents about a higher risk of drowning for children while they’re stuck at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Public pools might be in limbo, but backyard pools are open again, and the steamy weather has many families pulling out the kiddie pools, too.

On Tuesday, the nation’s pediatricians are sounding the alarm, warning that the pandemic could increase the risk of children drowning at home.

Children who would normally be in school, day care or camp are instead at home. With so many parents distracted by working at home, experts fear children could be slipping outside while their guardians are on a Zoom call or consumed by work.

“Making sure that kids can’t get to water when they’re not supposed to be in the water is the most important thing for families to consider,” said Dr. Ben Hoffman, of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hoffman said about 70% of drownings for younger children happen when they aren’t supposed to be in pools. Making matters worse, fewer children might be learning how to swim this summer.

“Because of the pandemic, it’s unlikely that parents are going to be able to find swim lessons for their kids for the foreseeable future,” Hoffman said. “What that means is if kids can’t learn to swim, we need to rely on other layers of protection to keep them safe around water. If you have a swimming pool, we need to make sure kids can’t get to it when it’s not swim time and they’re not being adequately supervised, which means four-sided fencing and a gate. If you don’t have one, get one.”

Make sure wading pools are dumped out when they’re not in use and that buckets and bathtubs are emptied right away, experts said.

If there’s water around, children will likely find it, Hoffman said.

“The parent or caregiver needs to be supervising that child,” Hoffman said. “You can’t leave them alone, even for a second.”

Parents should also be aware of pools and hot tubs owned by neighbors.

Blowup pools are one of the hottest items for sale right now, which means there could be a risk of one popping up next door.

With people unable to travel, many are looking to buy kayaks or paddle boards. The American Canoe Association expects an influx of beginner paddlers heading out with insufficient instruction. Make sure to always wear a life jacket and choose a safe location for your ability level, experts said.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.