The power of knowing how to save a life

With summer finally here, families are enjoying activities like swimming, boating and picnics. But these same activities can also lead to accidents, injuries and drownings.

While most parents know that it’s important to put sunscreen on their child, how many know what to do if their child’s heart stops from choking or an accidental injury to the chest or from being submerged under water? Knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save lives.

Drowning prevention

Each year, approximately 1,000 children die from drowning, with the majority happening from May through August. Children from infant to 4 years old have the highest rates, and children with seizure disorders, heart conditions and autism are at a higher risk.

Eighteen children die each day from drowning. Over the past five years, we’ve seen fatal child drownings increase by more than half due to a gap in adult supervision.

Now more than ever, with COVID-19 keeping families at home, it’s important that parents and other caregivers are vigilant about water safety.

Our team at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) offers tips to keep your children safe around water:

  • Teach kids how to swim in both pools and open water. Learning to swim helps children feel comfortable and safe around water. Swimming in open water is different given the currents, cold temperature, unknown depth and limited visibility.
  • Always swim in public places that have a lifeguard on duty at all times.
  • There should always be a designated “watcher” who is engaged and alert. Avoid distractions such as being on your phone. For younger children, an adult should stay close enough to quickly pull a child above the water.
  • Make sure that all children on watercraft (boat, Jet Ski, kayak, canoe or paddleboard) are fitted with a lifejacket no matter how confident you are in their swimming skills.
  • Families with backyard pools are encouraged to have four-sided fences around the pool to prevent children entering without an adult knowing.
  • Take a CPR class. Early CPR increases the chances of a child surviving a drowning.

The most effective strategy to improve outcomes of childhood drowning is to start CPR as soon as a child is rescued from the water before emergency medical services arrive. CPR must begin within minutes to prevent brain injury and death. Survival is more likely if bystanders initiate rescue breathing, chest compressions and call 911 right away.

The best preparation is to learn CPR and be ready to use those skills in an emergency. For more information, go to:

Article contributed by Megan McMahon, MSN, APRN, Pediatric Critical Care; Mica Goulbourne, MD, Pediatrics; and Colin Treem, Simulation Based Education and Research instructor. For more information, go to

Categories: House Calls