Better community knowledge of basic life support (BLS) and water safety strategies could help reduce the number of children who drown in backyard and public pools, according to an article in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Gary Browne, Head of Academic Emergency Medicine at The Children's Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, and his co-authors looked at a cluster of eight children who drowned or suffered near-drowning in Sydney pools over an 11-day period in January 2007.
Four children received BLS within five minutes of immersion and survived with good clinical outcomes. The other four were not discovered for five or more minutes and all died. BLS was attempted on only one of these last four children.
In all cases, the children had not been adequately supervised, according to the authors.
Dr Browne says a significant decrease in the number of drowning or near-drowning events in children over the past 10 years is mainly due to education programs alerting parents to the importance of supervising their children, legislation to place fences around backyard pools, and efforts to teach effective BLS in the community.
"However, evidence is lacking of good compliance with these preventive measures highlighting the need to continually stress water safety messages to parents," Dr Browne said.
He also suggested that recent changes to BLS guidelines have led to confusion among the public about what to do in cases of immersion.
Dr Browne stressed the importance of timely, effective BLS as a "vital link in the chain of survival" and says that a more uniform community effort is needed to ensure wide-spread training in BLS, to be applied when the primary prevention measures of parental supervision and fencing fail.
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.