"Kids are naturally attracted to water because they see the beautiful, blue crisp water, and it draws them in. They don't know they can't go in it -- they think they will float," said Heidi Crowden, coordinator of the Cape Girardeau Area Safe Kids Coalition.
A recent national study on childhood drowning said the "silent killer," is the No. 2 cause of death in children ages 1-14.
Last month, the National Safe Kids Campaign, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury, released the report called ''Clear Danger: A National Study of Childhood Drowning and Related Attitudes.''
Tragedies peak during the summer months from May to August because children have more free time and are outdoors more, according to National Safe Kids Campaign. Safe Kids reports of all of the drownings and near drownings, 40 percent tend to occur on Saturday and 62 percent on Sunday, Crowden pointed out.
"Drowning is called the silent killer because parents don't hear the cry for help or even the sound of the splash," Crowden said. "It occurs in seconds and happens when you've just left a child for a moment to answer the telephone or turn your back."
Two minutes following submersion, a child loses consciousness; and four to six minutes following submersion, a child sustains irreversible brain damage.
According to the National Safe Kids survey, the majority of children who survive (92 percent) are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and most children who die (86 percent) are found after 10 minutes. Nearly all who require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) die or are left with severe brain injury.
"When we see the parents of these kids in the hospital, they always say, 'I never thought it would happen to me.' It's always them saying you hear about it, but we never thought it would happen to us," Crowden said.
The Cape Girardeau Area Safe Kids Coalition, headquartered at Southeast Missouri Hospital, serves the counties of Butler, Stoddard, Perry, Cape Girardeau, Mississippi, Scott, Pemiscot, Wayne, Bollinger, Ste. Genevieve and New Madrid.
Crowden visits schools, daycares and preschools, presenting information about water safety and other child safety issues. She has even done presentations for the YMCA of Southeast Missouri in Sikeston.
When it comes to saving lives, supervision is the key, Crowden said.
"Know what your child is doing, and use the buddy system," Crowden advised.
Safe Kids recommends enclosing a pool with four-sided fencing at least 5-feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates.
And often times parents will leave wading pools flipped up with water in them, Crowden said. Safe Kids coordinators try to encourage parents to empty the pools and flip them over when they're not being used.
In this area, not everyone has pools, but there are creeks and rivers in many places, Crowden noted. "We see a lot of kids (who drown) in bathtubs, cleaning buckets and toilets," she said.
Reinforcing education is another preventive approach to drowning, Crowden recommended.
"Teach your children about water safety and be honest about what can happen," Crowden said. "Put restrictions on the kids about when they can swim."
Parents and caregivers should remember water wings and rings are not life preservers, Crowden noted. Children should wear U.S. Coast-Guard approved flotation devices.
"If you think about it, if a child falls forward (when wearing water wings) their face will submerse in the water and they won't be able to breathe," she said, adding life preservers keep a child afloat.
Other tips from Crowden and National Safe Kids Campaign include never leaving a child alone or near a swimming pool, hot tub or wading pool; learning CPR; and keeping emergency telephone numbers by the pool.
"Teach your child to swim. Even if the older kids have had swimming lessons, try to keep them updated on swimming," Crowden encouraged.
Also, check the depth of water before swimming or diving. Never dive into water less than 9-feet, Crowden said. Crowden warned: "It only takes seconds to happen and only an inch of water ... You just never know."
For more information, visit www.safekids.org or contact Crowden at (573) 651-5815.