Where children drown, United States, 1995

Pediatrics. 2001 Jul;108(1):85-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.108.1.85.


Context: Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among children ages 1 to 19 years. Details about the specific site of submersion are important for implementation of primary prevention efforts, but are not routinely available from national data.

Objectives: To provide national data about the specific sites of drowning among US children and to examine site-specific drowning rates by age, race, and gender.

Setting: United States, 1995.

Design: Information was abstracted from death certificates for unintentional drownings among children <20 years of age. The site of drowning was coded from free text on death certificates. Proportional distributions of the site of drowning by age, region, gender, and race were examined. Site-specific drowning rates were calculated by age, race, and gender. Denominators were based on US Census Bureau, June 1995 estimates of the US population.

Results: For 1995, death certificates were obtained for 1420 unintentional drownings among children <20 years of age, 98% of the number of drowning deaths reported by the National Center for Health Statistics for the same year. Site of drowning was specified on 1308 (92%) death certificates. Fifty-five percent of infant drownings were in bathtubs. Among children between the ages of 1 to 4 years, 56% of drownings were in artificial pools and 26% were in other bodies of freshwater. Among older children, 63% of drownings were in natural bodies of freshwater. Site-specific drowning rates varied by race. Importantly, after the age of 5 years, the risk of drowning in a swimming pool was greater among black males compared with white males with rate ratios of 15.1 (95% confidence interval: 6.7-38.5) among 10- to 14-year-olds and 12.8 (95% confidence interval: 6.5-26.9) among 15- to 19-year-olds.

Conclusion: The variety of sites in which children drown, even within specific age groups, emphasizes the need for a multifaceted approach to prevention. Reductions in the relatively high rates of drowning among black adolescent males will require targeted interventions to prevent swimming pool drownings among this group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Asian / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Drowning / ethnology
  • Drowning / mortality*
  • Drowning / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data