Drowning is a silent killer, but preventable

Drowning is a silent killer

30 seconds, that's all it takes for a child to drown. Normally no splashing or yelling. Drowning is a silent killer, but preventable.


Water games and pool activities can be fun for children, but it can also be dangerous when they’re left unattended. 

Drowning is serious and poses a public health threat. According to Statistics South Africa, fatal drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional death in the country -Western Cape Government

What preparations are parents making to ensure the safety of their children…especially regarding WATER-SAFETY?

Four people drown in South Africa every day. It is estimated that 600 children die by drowning in South Africa each year. But, it can be prevented!! Let us first define ‘the silent killer’

  1. An Alarming Number Of Children Don’t Know How To Swim Or Have Weak Swimming Ability.
  2. Swimming Is The Only Sport Which Can Save Your Child’s Life.
  3. But There Is A Cure To Help Prevent Drowning, And It’s Pretty Simple.
  4. We Believe That When A Child Learns To Walk, They Should Learn To Swim.

Description – While distress and panic may sometimes take place beforehand, drowning itself is quick and often silent. A person close to the point of drowning is unable to keep their mouth above water long enough to breathe properly and is unable to shout. Lacking air, their body cannot perform the voluntary efforts involved in waving or seeking attention. Read more

Timing and realizing when someone is drowning it is not always easy for the untrained eye to observe. It might appear that the potential victim appears to be swimming and playing in the water, but could be 20-50 seconds away from drowning. They extend their arms sideways and push down on the water’s surface in order to lift their head out of the water.

Once the head is out of the water, they exhale and inhale as quickly as possible. Therefore there is no time to shout for help. The whole focus is on breathing. The arms are working on getting the head above water…no waving or kicking. Just trying to survive. 

Don't become part of statistics. What can we as parents do to help prevent drownings?


Let us cover 5 of the basic steps to make our beloved children water-safer and wiser. Being water-safe is a myth, but at the end of the day, it is your challenge as a good parent and citizen to look out for the safety of every child. 

1. Go do a basic CPR course. What is CPR? It’s an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. Immediate CPR can save a child’s life by restoring breathing and circulation until advance life support can be given by health care providers. As a parent, It’s your duty!

2. Supervision. Never leave children unattended near water. Water is a magnet for children. Children under 6 with no swimming lesson experience should never be more than 1 meter away from an arm of supervision. Don’t rely on other children to look after your child, even if they are so-called proficient swimmers. Your eyes as a parent should be on your little one constantly…not on your tablet or cellphone…not even for 10 seconds. Even when you are at a family gathering, always have designated supervision. Even relatively good swimmers should be monitored all the time.

3. Safety gear – I’m not going into detail about water safety at home. Pool covers, fences, hot tubs, jacuzzies, buckets, water containers, locked gates, alarms etc. With this article, I’m focussing on holidays at the beach, at resorts with rivers, lakes, dams and pools or just the day out where there is a water facility. I’m not a great believer in floatation devices (armbands, tube, Bentley belt) as they can lose air. Float suits, swim vest or life jacket seems the ‘safest’ in my humble opinion. But you cannot rely on this so-called safety gear. Undistracted designated supervision stays no 1!

4. Distractions & alcohol – Some people sadly, don’t read decent literature anymore. But you will find them on their cell-phones…social media. More interested in what their friends did in a shopping mall etc.. They are in a zone on these platforms and sometimes totally unaware of what is going on around them for minutes. And in the holiday season, it’s braaivleis, sunny skies and alcohol. 2 Major distractions and that is unfortunately when drownings can occur. Focus!! Children have the right to be safe and to be treated with affection.

Last but not least. What about swimming lessons?


5. Protect your child and others. 

There are many more important reasons for why a parent should know how to swim. In the event of an emergency, it will be of utmost importance for any parent to be able to swim out to help their or anybody’s child who is in the water in distress. This can truly be a life-saving quality for any parent to have with regards to protecting children.

So if you as a parent can’t swim and are not able to perform the duties mentioned above, please just give your child the greatest gift in life you can ever do…Swimming lessons. A skill for life. 

“I get the parent’s phoning me 3 weeks before December school holidays start. Can I bring my child for swimming lessons please”? I want to get them water-safe for the holidays!!! 

Sorry, sir/madam. A child is never water-safe. Yes, maybe after a few weeks participating in a structured learn to swim program, your child might be water-safer or wiser. But unfortunately, it does not happen in 3 or 4 lessons.

“As concerned parents, it is easy to think that we are doing what’s best for our children by enrolling them in programs that claim to eliminate the threat of drowning. The value of these kinds of programs should definitely be evaluated with a healthy amount of scepticism, to say the least. The worst thing about these programs is that parents are lured into a false sense of security”. Read more. As parents, I beg you to take the necessary precautions and become your child and our country’s children’s life-savers. Let us stop this horrible saying…Drowning is a silent killer

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