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Information on drowning

Learn about drownings among children, adolescents, and adults

Drowning is swift and silent and even the most experienced swimmer is susceptible to drowning. But drowning is preventable and you can prepare yourself to help in case of an emergency by learning CPR.

In 2015, 39 unintentional drowning deaths occurred in Massachusetts and an additional 223 nonfatal near-drowning cases required treatment at a Massachusetts acute care hospital.

Childhood drowning

Drowning was the leading cause of unintentional injury death among Massachusetts children 0-14 years in 2015. Most child drownings involve a brief lapse in supervision — for example, taking one’s eyes off of a child to text or talk on a cell phone. Many people assume that if someone is drowning, they will be splashing or calling for help, or waving their arms. In reality, drowning is swift and silent. There is often no struggle or splashing, no cry for help. Many child drownings occur in the presence of other children or adults.

Young children can drown in just a few inches of water. Children under 1 year old most commonly drown in buckets, toilets, wading pools, and bathtubs. Children ages 1-4 years most often drown in backyard swimming pools.

Adolescent and adult drowning

Alcohol is involved in 25-50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat. Adolescents and Adults most frequently drown in natural bodies of water, like rivers and lakes.

Many adolescent and adults who drown did not know how to swim. Also, people who are not born in the United States are over represented in drowning deaths. They represent more than 20% of overall drowning fatalities in Massachusetts between 2011 and 2015.

Learn more about how to prevent drowning, and respond in a crisis by visiting our Water Safety for Everyone page.

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