Background Children aged 5–14 years report the lowest drowning rates in Australia. However, research has shown that 40% of primary-school-aged children do not achieve the required swimming and water safety skills, which is a key risk factor for drowning.
Methods The Royal Life Saving National Fatal Drowning Database was used to examine unintentional drowning deaths among children aged 5–14 years from 1-July-2011 to 30-June-2021.
Results Between 2011/12 and 2020/21, 105 children aged 5–14 years drowned in Australia, 71% (n=75) males and 29% (n=30) females and 62% were among children aged 5–9 years. The top three activities being undertaken prior to drowning across all ages were swimming (52%), fall (14%) and bathing (8%). Swimming pools were the leading location (24%) (including public and home pools), followed by river/creek (22%). Drowning occurred primarily in Summer (46%), on Saturday (25%) and in the afternoon (12pm-6pm) (70%). Swimming ability was known in 40 cases, of which 33% were perceived as poor or non- swimmers. Drowning trends between older and younger children were evident.
Conclusion Male children are at the greatest risk of drowning. Children aged 5–9 are at increased risk of falling into water and having poor swimming ability. For older children 10–14 years, risk factors include less supervision and more independence when swimming in pools and inland waterways.
Learning outcomes Drowning prevention strategies focusing on children need to remind caregivers not to over-estimate their child’s swimming abilities and to continue practicing constant supervision regardless of their child’s age.
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