A four-year-old girl died this Wednesday in a Barcelona hospital three days after drowning in the municipal swimming pools of Granollers. A two-year-old boy drowned this Sunday in a private pool in Dénia, in Alicante. A 16-year-old boy died in the same way last Friday on a river beach in A Veiga, in Ourense. That Wednesday, another two-year-old baby lost his life in a private pool in La Campana, in Seville, after falling into it during a family reunion, and a three-year-old girl suffered the same fate in a pool in the Murcian town of San Javier. . On August 2, a nine-year-old girl died in the hospital after drowning on the Coma beach in Castelló d’Empúries, in Girona. These are the latest drownings reported so far in August, in addition to the 17 children who had died for this reason up to July 31. According to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), drowning is the second leading cause of death from accidents in children and brain damage in adolescents, only behind traffic accidents. They are more common in males and most occur in fresh water, especially in swimming pools. To avoid them, experts recommend vigilance and more swimming classes.
The lack of supervision in the smallest and falls or risky activities in adolescents are the two fundamental causes of these accidents. The Royal Spanish Federation of Lifesaving and Rescue (RFESS) advises “never leaving a minor alone” and recalls that supervision of children in the water is “vital”. “It is essential to ensure that there is a responsible adult present and watching over the children at all times. A minor should never be trusted to take care of himself in an aquatic environment, as unforeseen and dangerous situations can occur in a matter of seconds,” says the Federation in a note on drowning prevention. Another of the RFESS recommendations is not to rely on floats, inflatable mats or other flotation materials and not to stray “too” from the shore. In addition, consider that it is best to avoid dangerous play on cliffs, docks or aquatic facilities regardless of the depth of the water. It is also not recommended to do it in rocky areas due to possible injuries that may occur.
Ramsés Martí, specialist in aquatic safety, makes a distinction by age group. On the one hand, there are babies who are beginning to crawl and walk and be autonomous and can be victims of accidents at the slightest mistake. In this case, he recommends not taking your eyes off them at any time and never leaving them in the care of other older children, in addition to fencing private pools on all four sides. “In the end, the reason why the little ones drown is because there has been a gap in surveillance. They access an aquatic facility without the adults noticing, usually private pools, they fall and, since they don’t know how to swim, they end up drowning”, Martí sums up.
On the other hand, there are teenagers. The headlong dives, the jokes and games like seeing who can last the longest under the water are the core of the danger at this stage, says Martí. The only way to make them aware, says Alberto García Sanz, director of the Spanish School of Rescue and First Aid, is to educate them. “Young boys are very reckless. Many do not respect the rules and do not obey the lifeguards, ”he explains. The fact that men drown more than women —up to July 31, the male deaths (206) were 83% of the total— is related to this. “They are more reckless, they risk more. They are more likely to bathe where and when there is no surveillance, to jump from rocky areas, to not respect the rules and to fail to comply with the instructions of the guards”, he develops.
In this sense, Martí adds: “If we educate young children in this regard, they will be adolescents and pre-adolescents who will adopt fewer risky behaviors in aquatic environments, they will be very responsible adults with their own safety and that of their children, and they will be elderly who they will know how to act so as not to expose themselves to danger from water more than necessary”. According to data from the National Drowning Report (INA) of the RFESS, 2023 is, in the last five years, the one that has registered the most drownings of people of all ages (267) in Spanish waters.
Lack of aquatic training
All the experts consulted agree on one issue: despite Spain, it is a country that has 7,905 km of coastline, a multitude of rivers, swamps and pools where you can take a bath and more than 1.2 million swimming pools (one for every 37 inhabitants). , the Spanish lack aquatic training. Although there are no official data on the level of swimming in the country, they assure that it is low. “In truth, in Spain we do not have a culture of water. This is being corrected thanks to the training that the younger generations receive in extracurricular classes, but of course, the same is not happening among the elderly. Most bathers believe that they know how to swim, when in reality they only know how to float and are unaware of the risks inherent in the aquatic environment”, Martí develops. This, she says, has a lot to do with the fact that the majority of drowning victims are men in the age bracket 55 and older. “Men over 50 years of age who perceive themselves to have knowledge of swimming, but who are not aware of their limitations,” she specifies.
For this reason, experts insist on the importance of promoting a preventive culture, which must be taught in schools, in order to reduce, generation after generation, the number of drownings in Spain. “Swimming must be taught not only as a way to jump into the water, float and move, but as a relationship between people and the water, to be co-responsible for their own safety, to be aware of the risk that exists. Swimming must be taught as a survival skill”, says Martí. At the moment, swimming and aquatic safety are not considered essential nor are they part of the official content in the physical education curriculum in most educational centers. For the specialist, this “does not make sense.” The subject of swimming and aquatic safety should be compulsory, he believes, and “all schools, private and public, should guarantee it, since its lack of implementation at the national level generates inequalities, since not all families can afford to pay for extracurricular classes” . “We would avoid so many drownings…”, he affirms.
The president of the Catalan Federation of Rescue and First Aid, Frederic Tortosa, agrees with Martí: “We must do early prevention. As? Acting from schools, making the aquatic education subject compulsory, during which children learn to swim, know the risks before, during and after bathing, and identify and know how to act in an aquatic emergency situation. We have had road, environmental or nutritional education from a very young age, why not the aquatic one?
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