Report: Boys 10 Times More Likely to Drown Than Girls

Andy Berg Headshot

The American Academy of Pediatrics this week released a report on drownings and that indicated which children are most susceptible. 

The report found that most children drown in pools and spas, but those under the age of 2 are most likely to drown in bathtubs and large buckets. 

Males were 10 times more likely to drown than girls, with about 75 percent of all children who die from drowning are boys.

AAP found that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in American children ages 1 to 4, and it is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in those from 5 to 19.

“The reason drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4 is that they are impulsive; they’re not really good at following rules; they are built to explore the world; and water is really fascinating,” said report co-author Dr. Ben Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention and a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University. “With the briefest lapse of supervision they can get into the water.”

Leaving children unattended for any period of time while they’re in the water is not recommended.

“Twenty or 30 seconds alone can be enough to lead to absolute tragedy,” Hoffman added. “The message there is you should never ever, ever, ever leave an infant in any water alone.”

The report suggested a number of preventative measures.

“There isn’t one single thing parents can do to drown proof their children," Hoffman said. “Supervision is absolutely essential but it’s not going to be enough. One thing we do know is that children who have had some training in water safety are less likely to drown than those who have not.”

Findings from the report include:

  • In 2018, 900 children and teens under age 20 died from drowning and 7,200 were seen at a hospital emergency department for a drowning event, with 35% either hospitalized or transferred for further care.
  • Approximately 15% to 30% of caregivers have reported leaving children younger than 2 years unsupervised in the bath for a period ranging from a minute to slightly over five minutes.
  • Children under age 5 who drown each year often have unexpected, unsupervised access to water, such as in a residential pool.
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