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Drowning, The Leading Yet Silent Killer

Worldwide, drowning is one of the most common, yet most preventable deaths in those under the age of 19. These deaths can occur to anybody regardless of their age, skill level, and any other factor. Worldwide, drowning deaths are a leading yet incredibly silent killer of many.

The above picture from the CDC shows US drowning rates https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db149.htm

To put this into perspective, Emily Wax-Thiboudx says that, “The World Health Organizations first global report on drowning shows that drowning claims the lives of 372,000 people each year. The report also says that the risk of drowning is much greater in those under 5 years of age.” The rates of drowning in the United States alone are un-deniably high, mostly for young children and adolescents. However, it is not spoken of nearly as much as things like cancer, violence deaths, automobile crashes, and more because of how underestimated and under-spoken these deaths are."


On top of being under-spoken, drowning is probably one of the most preventable deaths worldwide as well. In an interview with Alexandra Houton of Cook Childrens Drowning Prevention team in Fort Worth, Texas, she states that, “In not only the United States, but worldwide as well, there are just not enough measures being taken to prevent drowning deaths.” Swim lessons play a factor in this as well, as they tend to only be limited, but very expensive and costly internationally. This is likely because of the lack of education levels, mostly in less developed countries where a good portion of these deaths occur, but even in America and other more developed countries. Proper education and access to prevention are the biggest steps that can be taken in order to prevent and reduce drowning deaths.


Even in places where child and adolescent drowning rates may not be as high, or where there is access to good water education, it does not make any single person immune to a drowning death or fatality. There have been many instances where trained competitive swimmers have drowned. These swimmers have been mostly teens and adolescents, and often, have years of experience and are very accomplished. In 2013, a 16 year-old elite level swimmer of the prestigious North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Maryland passed away due to drowning during practice. The suspected cause of death was something called Shallow Water Blackout Syndrome, caused by holding one's breath too long. In the summer of 2016, a 14 year-old swimmer of the North Texas Nadadores swim team in Southlake, Texas named Elise Cerami, was found passed out on the bottom of the pool during practice. She was pronounced dead hours later at the hospital and the cause of death- drowning. Adolescent and child drowning cases are not only young children who can’t swim, they can be older teens who certainly can swim.

Friends and family mourning the loss of Elise Cerami after she tragically drowned during practice. https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2016/06/20/young-swimmer-mourned-at-vigil-in-southlake/

Commonly, it is said that drownings occur because people cannot swim. While this is completely true, it is only one part of these deaths. Things such as shallow water blackout also contribute to this, however specifically in the United States we have a major issue with a lack of proper water education. Water safety and education needs to be put in schools as a physical education requirement in America, as this huge issue is very rarely if ever addressed in most American schools. In Europe, many schools are implementing water safety and education in their schools, lowering their drowning rates in children and adolescents drastically. This is because of how accessible water safety is, not to mention it happens to be free as well. Here in the US, swim lessons tend to be very expensive, making learning to swim cost prohibitive. There are many organizations that offer scholarships and financial assistance for low income and in need families. Three well-known organizations that offer this in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex are Metroplex Aquatics, Sigma Swimming, and the YMCA. These organizations care about the welfare of children and making sure that all children have access to proper water education.

Two primary school girls at a Berlin swimming pool learning how to swim as part of their education. These lessons are for at least one year.

Lastly, a common question that is asked: Why are children and adolescents the most at risk for drowning? The answer is simple: Because they tend to be very curious and experimental with things and will try to test limits when they are in and around the pool. Adolescents may try to “fit in” with their friends, often engaging in risky behavior to try to impress their peers. While these are only a few reasons, it shows how at-risk children and adolescents are to drowning deaths and fatalities.


Drowning is a leading cause of death in both the United States but is a huge killer internationally as well. It is a known fact that drowning is a leading, yet silent killer of both children and adolescents.

Works Cited

  1. "Drowning is one of the 10 leading causes of death for children, WHO says." Washingtonpost.com, 18 Nov. 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A390637736/OVIC?u=j220918004&sid=OVIC&xid=b754ad04.

  2. "FOR THE RECORD DROWNING RATE UP." Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada], 8 June 1990, p. A12. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A164472144/OVIC?u=j220918004&sid=OVIC&xid=2b581c58.

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