Background: Drowning is a major cause of morbidity and mortality for children, yet non-fatal drowning remains poorly understood. The aim of this study was to explore potential modifiable risk factors of non-fatal drowning among children in rural areas of China.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was first conducted to obtain non-fatal drowning cases, and 7432 students in grades three to eight from 17 schools participated in the cross sectional survey. Of these, 805 students reported that they experienced non-fatal drowning in the previous year. Then 368 cases were selected randomly to participate in a 1:1 matched case-control study. Each drowning case was matched by one control with the same sex and similar age (the gap less than 2 years) who was selected randomly from the same class.
Results: Boys were more likely to be involved in non-fatal drowning. Non-fatal drowning most often happened in the afternoon (65.1%) and natural bodies of water were the most common sites of drowning (71.1%). Swimming, diving and playing in natural waters were the leading activities that preceded non-fatal drowning. The significant risk factors for non-fatal drowning were swimming in natural waters without adult supervision (OR = 3.40, 95% CI: 1.92-6.03), playing in or beside natural waters (OR = 2.08, 95% CI: 1.17-3.70) and poor swimming skills (OR = 2.74, 95% CI: 1.14-6.62). However, the following variables were protective factors: supervisor aged 30 years or over (OR = 0.20, 95% CI: 0.09-0.49) and no water activities (OR = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.18-0.70).
Conclusions: The reduction in dangerous water activities, swimming training and enhancement in supervision among children might decrease the risk of non-fatal drowning.