Newsroom > DHHS News Release


July 2, 2008

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047,

Note: Sound bites on this topic are available at:


Drowning is Leading Cause of Accidental Death
for Children 1-4

Lincoln — Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4 in the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In the period 1999-2004, 15 children ages 1 to 4 drowned in Nebraska.

Kids drown quickly and quietly, said Dan Cillessen, Administrator of the Health Promotion Section of the Division of Public Health.

"If a child is missing, always check the pool first — there’s no time to spare," he said. "Even kids who survive near-drowning may have brain damage. After four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible."

Active supervision is the most important precaution. Although 94 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time — talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.

"Adults should always take turns serving as the designated ‘water watcher,’ paying undivided attention to kids," Cillessen said. "Nearly 90 percent of deaths occur during a brief lapse in supervision."

DHHS recommends these precautions for pool safety:

  • Always designate an adult to actively supervise.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.
  • Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped.
  • Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids.
  • Remember: Inflatable swimming toys such as "water wings" and "noodles" are not flotation devices and do not prevent drowning.

Other safety measures:

  • A pool or spa should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 percent to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
  • A pool or spa should be equipped with an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught in the suction of the drain. The powerful suction forces can trap a child underwater or cause internal injuries.
  • For extra protection, there should be a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.

For more information about the Safe Kids Nebraska Program, check the Safe Kids Web page at

- 30 -