African-American children more likely to drown - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX Medical Team

African-American children more likely to drown

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DECATUR, Ga. -

Every day in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 10 people drown and two of them are children.

Accidental drowning is now the second leading cause of injury-related death in children, right behind motor vehicle accidents. Part of the problem is that many children lack basic swimming skills.

The CDC says the children at highest risk are boys, between the ages of one and four, and African American. The agency says Black children are almost three times more likely to drown that white children of the same age.

That’s why programs that teach children to respect – but not fear – the water may be lifesavers.

It's an odd place to fall in love. But when city kids hit the cool water here at the Samuel L. Jones Boys and Girls Club in Decatur, something almost magical happens. Katie Almand, with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta says, “The majority of our kids come to us not knowing how to swim, most of them never having been near water. Some of them will cling to the side of the pool, won't even touch the water, and then by the end of the school year, they're swimming every day, they're jumping into the deep end.”

Each day 165 kids come here to have fun, but this is about more than fun. Almand says, “Drowning is a major, major cause of death for children, especially African American children. And that is the majority of what we serve here. So, they need to learn how to swim, they need to be comfortable in the water, it's fun for them, but it's also important, just for their safety."

By the age of three most children are ready to start learning to swim, says Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Pediatrician in Chief Jim Fortenberry. He says, “Families may have a tendency to overestimate their child's ability in the water, too. Even if they've had swimming lessons, that doesn't mean they're safe to go out on a lake by themselves or to go out in the pool by themselves at a young age."

Young children more likely to drown in pools, teens on open water, where they may over-estimate their swimming skills.

Dr. Fortenberry says it’s easy to get into trouble on lakes and rivers and oceans. He says, “You don't have edges to catch onto if you're having a little bit of a problem. The water tends not to be clear, so it's harder to see a child or teen if the go under.”

Fortenberry says if he could tell parents anything, it would be this: never take your eyes off your child around the water.

Drowning happens quickly and silently for children. Fortenberry says, “Nothing is more important than your child. Not that text message, not that phone call. Those things can all wait, your child can't wait.

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