Toddler Drowning

Toddler drowning in domestic swimming pools

C Blum and J Shield

Royal Children’s Hospital Flemington Road Parkville Victoria 3052 Australia

Aims To identify how toddlers who drowned gained access
to private swimming pools; to recommend preventive strategies
to reduce the incidence of toddler drowning and near drowning.

Method The study reviewed critically all completed investigations
into the drowning deaths of toddlers aged 1 4 years reported
to the state coroner (n=33) as a result of unintentional submersion
incidents in domestic swimming pools in Victoria Australia
from 1 January 1992 to 31 December 1997.

Results There was a predominance of 1 year olds and boys.
Forty six per cent of the children drowned in the three summer
months. The majority of pools were in-ground; most were located
on the child’s home property. Over half the pools lacked fencing
of any kind; of those that did have fences only three appear
to have met Australian standards.

Conclusions More than half of the children studied drowned
in unfenced pools and spas. In not one case did a child gain
unaided access to a pool fitted with a fully functional gate
and fence that met the Australian standard. Where children gained
access to fenced pools the majority did so via faulty or inadequate
gates or through gates that were propped open. This finding
highlights the need for pool owners to install Australian standard
approved fences and gates and to maintain existing fences and
gates regularly. Door locks and supervision were inadequate
primary prevention strategies.