DROWNING IS the second highest accidental killer of children, after road traffic accidents, in Portugal. It is estimated that at least 30 children die each year from drowning.
A study conducted by Faro District Hospital analysed all cases involving accidental drowning in children aged 12 and under, who were admitted to emergency paediatrics. Results concluded that drowning accidents occur more frequently in swimming pools and rivers, and that death by drowning increases during the summer and occurs mostly in busy tourist areas.
“Sometimes, a handful of water is enough to drown a child,” said Dra. Elsa Rocha, a paediatrician at the hospital, who is also responsible for the Algarve centre of the Associação para a Promoção da Segurança Infantil (APSI), a Portuguese association for child safety awareness.
Between January 1998 and November 2005, 83.2 per cent of drownings occurred in swimming pools (45 out of 54 cases) and 94.5 per cent of these accidents happened between May and September. According to the paediatrician, swimming pools in houses rented to tourists are where most drowning accidents take place. She explained: “On the first day of the holiday, parents want to explore the house and often forget the children, who go in the pool unsupervised.”
Paediatricians recommend keeping a careful eye on children in the pool. Armbands should be worn by young children, making sure that they are secure, thus reducing the chances of them slipping off, or a child being able to remove them. Specialists also recommend fencing off any area where children can drown.