Freshwater drowning and near-drowning accidents involving children: a five-year total population study

Med J Aust. 1976 Dec 18-25;2(25-26):942-6. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1976.tb115532.x.


A large total population study of childhood fresh water immersion accidents is reported. The study was undertaken in the City of Brisbane over the five-year period 1971 to 1975 inclusive, and 111 fresh water immersion accidents involving children were studied and analysed. The childhood fresh water immersion accident rate, including drowning and near-drownings, of 10-43 per year per 100,000 at risk (fatality rate of 5-17) is the highest reported. If an unsupervised child gets into difficulties in fresh water and loses consciousness he has a 50% chance of dying. The immersion accident rate has doubled over the last six years. Age-specific immersion accident rates have been calculated, and have revealed that, in the toddler group (12 months to 23 months), the fresh water immersion accident rate is 50-01 per 100,000 (fatality rate of 22-55). Rates for drowning and near-drowning accidents after a fresh water immersion, by site, age and outcome (survival versus fatality), are also presented for the first time. Swimming pools produce 6-20 immersion accidents per year per 100,000 children at risk, and the domestic family bath tub produces 1-78. Possible factors explaining the high incidence are discussed, and comparisons of drowning rates from other centres are made.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Drowning / mortality
  • Female
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • Immersion
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors
  • Swimming Pools