Tips to avoid youth drowning in open waters

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 12:30 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Summer is almost over and many families may be looking to squeeze in last-minute vacations near open waters.

After a toddler was found face down in an Otter Tail County lake experts are issuing a warning to parents.

“I think the first thing they may not realize is how quickly and how silently it can happen,” said Dr. Myra Quanrud, a pediatrician at Essentia.

Research shows drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

“Children can drown in an inch of water,” said Kate Oelke, the manager of children’s community programs with SafeKids Fargo-Moorhead.

Experts say there is an equal risk of a child drowning in open water as in a pool.

“Toddlers especially they are top heavy. They have big heads and when they fall, they fall head first into the water,” Quanrud said.

There are key differences parents should be aware of.

“Visibility is different. There may be sudden drop-offs and uneven surfaces,” Oelke said.

Due to water in lakes not being as clear, some professionals say the color of a child’s bathing suit could play a significant role.

“Logically the brighter colors are more easily seen. Green is going to be filtered out. It’s harder to see a water-colored or algae-colored swimsuit.”

They also say the key to avoiding drowning is that parents stay vigilant, especially around toddlers.

“They are impulsive. They explore their world through their senses. They don’t have the rationale to know they could be in danger,” said Oelke. ”Keep the little ones within arms reach.”

It is also recommended to assign someone as a water watcher to keep their eyes on children at all times.

Experts also say parents should have consistent conversations so young children can learn the difference between right and wrong when around water.

“Very clear rules and talking about it all the time. Rehearsing it all the time. Make sure they know they have to have an adult and they can’t go down to the water by themselves,” said Quanrud.

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