Between June 1 and September 30, 597 people drowned in France, reports Public Health France in its Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin (BEH) June 11. Each year, the NOYADES surveys identify all “respiratory failure resulting from submersion or immersion in a liquid medium, whether or not followed by death”, according to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2018, it is therefore the equivalent of nearly five people a day who died from it. Of the drownings, 406 were accidental – a figure “roughly stable” since 2015. These also represent the leading cause of death from everyday accidents among people under 25. However, they are for the most part preventable, recalls the health agency.
A rising number
The results of the report show a 30% increase in the number of drowning cases (whether or not followed by a death) over this period of summer 2018 compared to 2015, when 1,266 cases had been observed. Last year, 1,649 accidental drownings have indeed been identified, with a proportion of fatal drownings of 25%. Among the latter, 40% resulted from bathing in waterways (river, pond, lake, canal), 40% at sea, 17% in a swimming pool and 3% in other places (baths, basins).
The statistics show in particular an increase in accidental drownings in children under 13 : 600 cases in 2018 against 338 in 2015. On the other hand, the number of deaths has not increased. And while young children are particularly concerned, they are not the population most affected by drowning mortality. 35% of the deaths recorded (137 during the summer) concerned over 65s, compared to 9% (35) under 6 years old.
Heat and “dry drowning”
The considerable increase in accidents is explained by the authors of the report by the weather conditions of summer 2018, classified by Météo-France as the second hottest summer since 1900. A weather which would therefore probably have been responsible for an increased number of drownings.
They also evoke the media coverage, particularly since 2017, of the so-called “dry” drowning. After having “swallowed the cup”, water would manage to flood the lungs to, in the end, cause drowning several hours or days after a swim. A concept that “not based on any scientific or medical basis”, notes Public Health France, but which could have led worried parents to seek help following a “beginning of drowning” of their child.
The right reflexes
According to 2016 health barometer, a French people out of seven do not know how to swim. Learning to swim remains one of the essential factors in prevention. Whether you feel like a fish in the water or not, there are things you can do to limit the risks and enjoy safe swimming:
- Bathe at the same time as the children
- Designate an adult responsible for their supervision. It must be permanent
- Equip them with armbands or buoys adapted to their age, weight and size
- Secure swimming pools (tarpaulin, partitioning, alarm)
- Remove toys from the surface so as not to attract them
- Take into account your physical form, avoid water in case of fatigue or illness
- Bathe in supervised areas and check for local hazards
- Gradually enter the water, to prevent hydrocution
- Avoid overeating meals and drinking alcohol before and during swimming. The risk of discomfort is even greater if the water is cold or after long exposure to the sun.
- Do not try to fight against the waves, so as not to exhaust yourself. If you are tired, go for the plank position. Try to stay calm until help arrives.
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