Background In France, national surveys on drowning have been contributing to the epidemiological surveillance of injuries for 15 years. The purposes of these surveys were to describe the characteristics and the risk factors of unintentional drowning, and to contribute to their prevention.
Methods A prospective survey was set up in France from the 1 June to 30 September 2015. Each drowning followed by hospitalisation or death was recorded. The data were collected by fire rescue and emergency services.
Results During the 4 months, 1,217 unintentional drownings were reported (on 2015/11/23), including 435 (36%) which resulted in death. Children under 6 represented 18% of the victims (219, including 29 deaths); adults over 45 accounted for 45% of the victims (550, including 260 deaths). The distribution by drowning place was the following: 233 in private swimming pools (68 deaths), 61 in public swimming pools (6 deaths), 156 in streams (115 deaths), 130 in lakes (65 deaths), 600 in sea water (166 deaths), and 37 in other places (15 deaths). In private swimming pools, children under 6 mainly drowned due to the lack of parental surveillance. In streams and lakes, drowning was more frequent among adults after a fall, or when engaging in solitary activities, or after having consumed alcohol. In sea water, many victims were tourists over 45 with a health problem.
Conclusions The number of drowning remained stable during the summer months since 2003, except for children under 6 in private swimming-pools, whose deaths declined from 30 in 2003 to 13 in 2015. These results illustrate the need to strengthen prevention messages: careful surveillance of young children; learning how to swim as early as possible, since swimming is the most reported activity; not overestimating one’s physical condition; swimming in supervised areas; inquiring about the state of the sea and the meteorological conditions. During the survey period, the media relayed prevention messages on TV and newspapers.
- epidemiological surveillance
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