Kiddie Pools pose a Large Summer Risk for Children

June 21, 2011

Portable pools, including inflatable and wading pools, are just as dangerous as in-ground pools in the summertime, most especially for younger children.

shows that portable pools, including inflatable and wading pools, are just as dangerous as in-ground pools in the summertime, most especially for younger children.

"Parents need to be aware that these pools can present the same risks for drowning, especially for young children, as in-ground pools," said study author Gary Smith, head of the center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Smith and his team looked at data accumulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for cases of drowning or near-drowning in kiddie pools over the summer months.

Between the years 2001 to 2009, the researchers discovered records of 209 deaths from submersion in inflatable and wading pools and thirty-five non-fatal cases in children aged eleven and younger. According to the data, the quantity of drowning cases increased between the years 2001 and 2005, but has leveled off in recent years.

In the summer months, between the years 2001 and 2009, it was reported that a child would drown in a transportable pool every five days. The data showed that these occurrences happened almost exclusively to children under five years old, and most were in the child's own yard.

"That's a child every five days that is drowning in a backyard portable pool during the summer months," Smith said.

Smith continued to state that parents "need to put some thought into the safety issues when they go to the store, pick one of these up, and put them up in their backyard."

The authors discovered cases of drowning where children opened the doors of their homes and accessed the pool using a ladder or other nearby object, as well as cases where children were playing in the pool while a parent was close by, but had his/her attention diverted from the child.

Parents "can't say they're supervising (if they're) having a couple drinks at a pool and chatting with their friends or talking on a cell phone," stated Linda Quan, a drowning expert at Seattle Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the study. "Supervision has to be constant... and for a very young child, even within arm's reach."

Having fences around the ladders into the pool or just restricting access to the water are good steps to take in order to prevent accidents, said Quan, but using a pool cover to limit access to inflatable pools is only of partial protection. The researchers stated that in at least one case of drowning, two children in the study drowned together when they got tangled in a pool cover.

"The problem with submersion underwater is it's very quick,” said Smith. “Once a kid's heart and breathing stops it's very difficult to revive them. You don't get a second chance."

Quan advised parents to take preemptive measure to prevent pool related accidents from occurring, such as having children wear a life jacket near the pool, as well as making sure that children have no access to the pool when adults are not present. She also suggested that parents possibly empty the inflatable pools when supervision is not available.

The study is published in Pediatrics.