Portable Pools Are Dangerous

Drowning risk for kids under 12

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Portable pools such as the small plastic ones or popular inflatable models are always a fun and easy way for kids to cool off during the summer months. But as parents put out the pools to celebrate July 4, experts warn they can pose safety risks.

Ohio researchers caution in a Nationwide Children's Hospital study that the drowning deaths of more than 200 children under age 12 are linked to above-ground pools regardless of size or depth.

A child drowns in a pool in the United States about once every five days. But often these portable pools are not considered as dangerous as in-ground pools because they are inexpensive and easy to assemble. Children younger than 5 years old are at the greatest risk.

"Always supervise young children when swimming."

These types of pools are especially dangerous because they are too small to warrant fencing, but too large to empty and secure after each use, highlighting the need for better safety precautions around all types of pools.

Researchers examined 2001-2009 data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. They identified 209 drowning deaths and 35 near-drownings in children under 12 during that period. It was discovered that 94 percent of the children were under 5, and 56 percent were boys. About 75 percent of the deaths took place in the child's own yard, usually during the summer.

More than 40 percent of the drownings occurred when the child was being supervised while 39 percent happened with no adult supervision, and 18 percent were blamed on a lapse of supervision. The study showed that about 40 percent of the drownings happened in a shallow wading pool, defined as a pool with 18 inches or less of water.

Lead researcher Dr. Gary A. Smith, director of the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy, reminded that children can drown in very small amounts of water within a very short period of time and encouraged close supervision. With numerous safety measures such as alarms and fencing available for in-ground pools, Smith also urged for industry development of affordable fencing and reliable pool alarms and covers for portable pools.

Researchers recommend emptying pools when not in use and removing pool ladders as a precaution.

An organization called Safe Kids also promotes a pool-safety concept called "Lock, Look and Learn." It encourages parents to lock by erecting fencing at least four feet high with a self-latching gate that remains closed unless an adult is present.

Under the safety concept parents are asked to watch children in pools at all times, ensure they can swim and enroll their children in swimming lessons. Additionally parents should know how to use rescue equipment, call 9-1-1 and know CPR.

The report was published in journal Pediatrics.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 26, 2011
Last Updated:
July 3, 2011