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Respiratory Health

Drowning still a top cause of death for kids under 4

Drowning remains the leading cause of death in children under age 4 other than birth defects, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2005 to 2009, about 3,880 people died from drowningeach year in the United States, and more than 5,700 received emergency care for near- drowning incidents, the CDC says.

Death rates were highest for children between ages 1 and 4. In this age group, about 2.5 deaths occurred for every 100,000 children in the population, the report said.  Overall, there were 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people in the United States. More than half of all people treated in emergency rooms for near drowning were less than 4 years old, the report said.

The rate of death for males of all ages was about four times that of females (2 deaths per 100,000 for males versus 0.5 deaths per 100,000 for females). Males might be at a higher risk for drowning because they are more likely to overestimate their swimming ability, put themselves in riskier situations or use alcohol more frequently, the report said.

"To prevent drowning, all parents and children should learn survival swimming skills," which include learning how to right oneself after falling into water, and  how to float or tread water, the report said. Formal swimming lessons have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning among children under four in the United States, the report said.

Other ways to prevent drowning include isolating pools with fences, avoiding alcohol use while swimming, boating or supervising children, wearing lifejackets while boating and  learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the report said.