As temperatures and humidity continue to soar, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is again urging families to pay attention to their children’s safety around swimming pools, the sea and other sources of water including those at home.
In Qatar, drowning is a leading cause of death and serious disability in children, and the number of child deaths from drowning is rising annually, according to Kulluna Health and Safety Campaign Chairman and head of HMC’s Hamad International Training Center, Dr. Khalid Abdulnoor Saifeldeen.
Ninety percent of cases of drowning involve children aged 10 or under, with 70 percent younger than four years old. “Most drowning incidents in Qatar occur at home, in private swimming pools and bathtubs. Though we don’t have open lakes and rivers in Qatar, some incidents of drowning do occur in the sea because families often go to the beach for picnics and leisure activities at this time of the year,” said Dr. Saifeldeen. “Almost all the drowning incidents in swimming pools in Qatar happen when the parents are not present and either one child or a group of children are left to swim alone by themselves.”
Kulluna highlights the following measures to keep children safe in and around water:
- Parents should ensure constant supervision
- Prevent unintentional access to sources of water
- Teach children how to swim
- Set clear rules for family members when near water and enforce them
- Wear lifejackets or personal flotation aids
- Learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
Constant supervision is the key to keeping a child safe around water, stressed Dr. Saifeldeen. “You will not be aware that a child is in trouble unless you are watching him or her. Don’t leave children on their own around or in the water, even if they can swim, even if they’re wearing lifejackets. Supervision means you can see and hear them, and can reach them very quickly, because drowning can take seconds to happen and it often happens in silence.”
Unintentional access to sources of water can be prevented by installing a secure gate or other barrier, which must be checked on a regular basis to ensure the barrier is working properly and serving its purpose as a child grows in height and dexterity, he suggested.
“Always close the doors to bathrooms and drain paddling pools, baths and buckets immediately after use. About 70 to 80 percent of drowning cases happen when the child is not supposed to be in the water,” Dr. Saifeldeen said, stressing that barriers alone are not enough and direct supervision is still essential.
He mentioned that there are a number of schools or clubs in Qatar where children can learn how to swim and parents themselves can teach their kids, with direct supervision. He explained that small children and those who are inexperienced or weak swimmers should wear lifejackets or a personal flotation aid when in or near water, even with parents around, while noting that these devices are not a substitute for adult supervision.
Dr. Saifeldeen pointed out that learning CPR could be very useful asthe first few minutes following an accident in water are critical. “Keep your training up to date and keep CPR instructions with your first aid kit, and by the pool, if you have one. Kulluna offers free CPR training, and anyone interested can send a message through our website www.kulluna.qa.”
Kulluna has provided education on CPR and children’s safety in engaging and interactive ways in more than 70 schools in Qatar. “We hope we don’t reach the point where we need CPR. Unfortunately, even if we manage to successfully resuscitate a child, children can end up with severe disability,” he said.
“Kulluna means ‘all of us’. We strongly believe in shared responsibility. We provide education and information, but the parents and other members of the community need to share the responsibility in ensuring that they make children’s safety a priority, through direct supervision as well as by learning and seeking information from organizations like HMC and Kulluna,” Dr Saifeldeen concluded.