San Diego County sees spike in near drownings during pandemic

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SAN DIEGO – The number of near drownings involving children in San Diego County has spiked in recent months, according to county health leaders.

Forty-nine rescues were reported between March and July with the majority happening in private pools and resulting in trips to the hospital. The number is up from 37 during the same time period in 2019 and 33 in 2018.

It comes at a time when community pools have been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. Many San Diegans have turned to the internet and small pool shops to buy above-ground pools for their backyards.

“Instant customer, instant chemical demands,” Brian Dresser, owner of Discount Pool Supply in Clairemont. said.

He said everyone who recently bought a pool now needs help maintaining it. But he says the one thing people don’t seem to be buying is safety equipment.

County data shows of the 49 rescues between March and July, 24 involved children 14 years old or younger.

“You think these kids are going to struggle, think they will splash around, but they don’t,” said Rebecca Akst, a customer of the shop who says her son once fell into a pool.  “It’s quiet and if you have other kids making noise, you just don’t know.”

She suggested families buy a fence for around the pool or a water alarm that goes off when there’s movement in the pool.

Community pool closures also make finding swim lessons difficult. Inexperienced swimmers at San Diego beaches contribute to the total number of rescues the county reports each year.

The county provided these tips to minimize the risk of you or your children drowning.

General Water Safety:

  • Teach children to swim
  • Never leave a child unsupervised in or near water
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Residential Swimming Pools and Spas:

  • Install a fence around the pool and hot tub. Many jurisdictions have detailed laws regarding how this is done.
  • Install alarms
  • Remove toys. On the deck they can be a tripping hazard, or in the water they can attract children.
  • Beware of drains
  • Follow all swimming rules posted at swimming areas
  • Keep emergency equipment handy

Natural Bodies of Water:

  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Swim only in areas that have a lifeguard
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Enter water feet first for the initial descent
  • Never leave children unobserved, even for short periods of time

Toilets, Bathtubs and Buckets:

  • Keep the bathroom door closed
  • Supervise bath time
  • Shut toilet lids
  • Store buckets safely

The California Paramedic Foundation will soon be launching a social media campaign to warn parents about the dangers of unsupervised swimming.

More information and prevention strategies can be found at Mayo Clinic and Safe Kids.

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