The Power of Parental CPR

Father and son swimming in pool

With summer finally here, families are heading outdoors to enjoy activities like swimming, boating and picnics. These same activities can also lead to accidents, injuries and drownings.

While most parents know that it’s important to put sunscreen on their child, how many know what to do if their child’s heart has stopped from choking, an accidental injury to the chest or from being submerged under water? Knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), can save their life.

Drowning prevention

Drowning is a leading cause of death from unintentional injury in children. Each year, approximately 1,000 children fatally drown, with the majority happening from May through August. Children from 0 to 4 years of age have the highest rates and children with seizure disorders, heart conditions and autism are at a higher risk.

Of the approximately 18 child fatal drownings each day, there are seven non-fatal drownings that require emergency care. And over the past five years, we’ve seen fatal child drownings increase more than by half due to a gap in adult supervision.

Now more than ever, with COVID-19 keeping families at home, summer camps and public pools closed, and swimming lessons canceled, it’s important that parents and other caregivers are vigilant about water safety.

Our team at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) offers these tips to keep your children safe around water:

  • Teach kids how to swim in both pools and open water. Learning to swim helps children feel more comfortable and safe around water. Also, swimming in open water is different than swimming in pools given the currents, cold temperature, unknown depth and limited visibility.
  • Choose to swim in public places that have a lifeguard on duty at all times.
  • There should always be a designated “watcher” who is engaged and alert. Avoid distractions such as paying attention to your phone. For younger children, an adult should stay close enough to quickly pull a child above the water.
  • Make sure that all children on watercraft (boat, Jet Ski, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard) are fitted with a lifejacket no matter how confident you are in their swimming skills.
  • Families with backyard pools are encouraged to have four-sided fences around the pool to prevent children from entering without an adult knowing.
  • Take a CPR class. Having this skill can help in a drowning emergency. Early CPR increases the chances of a child surviving a drowning.

CPR improves childhood survival

The single most effective strategy to improve outcomes of childhood drowning is to start CPR as soon as a child is rescued from the water—even before emergency medical services arrive. CPR must begin within minutes of drowning to prevent brain injury and death. Children are more likely to survive if bystanders initiate rescue breathing, chest compressions and call 911 right away. The best preparation is for parents, caregivers and older siblings to learn CPR and be ready to use those skills in an emergency.

For more information:

Megan McMahon, MSN, APRN
Mica Goulbourne, MD
Colin Treem