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Young children at greater drowning risk in open water, study finds

(Flickr/Mingo Hagen)

PHOENIX — As summer rounds the corner, more and more children are going to take to the water in an effort to escape the sweltering Arizona heat.

But with a greater access to bodies of water comes a greater risk of drowning.

A new study from Safe Kids Worldwide found that 1,000 children drowned in open water in 2016.

The report also found that 38 percent of drownings nationwide occur in a pool. However, it’s much more common in Arizona: The state Department of Health Services found that 44 people died from drowning in 2016, with 22 of those being children less than 4 years old.

“We really want to turn eyes on open water issues particularly as we hit summer and as people are going out on our lakes and rivers,” Lori Schmidt with the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona told KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

Schmidt had some tips for families with young children, including watching kids in and around water without distractions, teaching kids how to swim in open water, using a Coast Guard-approved life jacket and learning what to do in an emergency situation.

“Knowing that adults can drown, it is especially important to keep these things in mind with kids,” she said. “Whether they are playing in the sand on the beach or actually out on the boat, they need to have extra protection.”

There are several factors that can increase drowning risks in open water, including water temperature changes. When a swimmer is closer to the shore, they will notice warmer water temperatures. As swimmers approach a drop off, they will notice a dramatic change in temperature, which can be a shock to the body and create an unsafe environment for the swimmer.

“It can be really difficult to judge distances so you want keep kids from going out too far into the water. Not only is it a danger for swimming but you also want to make sure to stay out of the path of boats and jet skies,” said Schmidt.

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