Water safety warning after increase in drowning incidents

Water safety warning after increase in drowning incidents

17 November

Parents and carers are being urged to remain vigilant when supervising children in, on or around water, after four children were admitted to the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network following non-fatal drowning events in the past week.

Trauma Surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Dr SV Soundappan said clinicians are reminding parents and carers of the importance of water safety as the recent increase in drowning incidents is concerning ahead of a long, hot summer.

“Unfortunately, drowning incidents can happen to any child, so it is crucial for all parents and carers to know how to keep children safe around water and what to do in the event of an emergency,” Dr Soundappan said. 

“An adult should be supervising children within arm's reach when they are in, on or around water at all times, regardless of whether the child knows how to swim. In an emergency, parents should perform CPR and call Triple Zero (000) immediately.”

From 1 January to 31 October 2023, 38 children presented to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, following a drowning incident. In 2022, there were 69 presentations to both hospitals, and in 2021, there were 54 presentations.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death and injury in children aged zero to five years in Australia; it is also one of the most preventable. Non-fatal drowning incidents can significantly impact a child’s long-term health outcomes and quality of life, resulting in brain or other organ damage.

Dr Soundappan says it is important for children of all ages to continue building on their swimming and water safety skills, as well as their swimming fitness levels.
“Teaching children water safety and how to swim is critical. It is vital to build a child’s familiarity and confidence around water, for example, through supervised aquatic play, setting rules and discussing water safety in a variety of locations,” Dr Soundappan said.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network advises parents and carers to:

  • Actively supervise children on, in and around water at all times.
  • Encourage children to take breaks from swimming. Swimming can get tiresome for children and young people, even if they are strong swimmers.
  • Check pool fence security and test all child swimming aids prior to your child getting in the water this season.
  • Dress children in visible, brightly coloured, sun-safe clothing and take note of what your child is wearing to assist in tracking their movements in busy areas.
  • Learn CPR and in case of an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.

Free education for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for babies under 12 months and children over one year is available through SCHN: https://kidshealth.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/cpr-resuscitation.

Media contact: 

 Eilis Grainger |0455 261 572 | eilis.grainger@health.nsw.gov.au

Last updated Friday 22nd December 2023