Results of the DROWNING 2021 survey: Prevention remains essential

The number of drownings remains high in 2021

Conducted every three years, the DROWNING survey aims to identify all accidental drownings and to describe the circumstances of their occurrence and the characteristics of the victims. It is based on information collected through questionnaires from emergency services (particularly firefighters, Samu-Smur). Drowning is considered when there is an organized rescue operation followed by hospital treatment (emergency room, hospitalization) or death.

In the summer of 2021, 1,480 accidental drownings were recorded, down 10% from the summer of 2018, which was 1,649 and held the record for all DROWNING surveys. The proportion of deaths was comparable in 2021 (27%) and 2018 (25%). This decrease in the total number of accidental drownings can be explained in particular by the climatic conditions (temperatures, sunshine) not very favorable for swimming in a large part of the urban area during the summer period of 2021.

These accidental drownings affect all places and all ages. In 2021, they were more numerous among the young and elderly, with 22% of accidental drownings in children under the age of 6 and 26% in people aged 65 and over. The rate of drowning followed by death was higher in those over 65: 41% compared to 6% in children under 6 years of age.

In terms of locations where drownings occurred, 47% of accidental drownings occurred at sea, 26% in swimming pools of all types, 23% in streams or bodies of water, and 4% in other locations (e.g., bathtubs or pools). ). The proportion of fatalities was higher for drownings in bodies of water (49%) and waterways (41%), while it was 25% in the sea, 15% in all types of swimming pools and 14% elsewhere. Swimming pool drownings affected more children under the age of 6 and sea drownings affected more people aged 65 and over.

However, it must be emphasized that many of these drownings took place in connection with the lifting of restrictive measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. In this context, these drownings could be partly related to a poor assessment of the swimmers’ physical abilities or to a deterioration in health at the end of a long period of confinement and reduced physical activity. It is therefore crucial to recall drowning prevention measures at all ages, both young and old, and to emphasize the importance of taking into account the physical condition and state of health of each person.

For a gradual and safe return to swimming, especially after a period of decline or absence from physical activity:

  • Consider your fitness
  • Do not swim if you experience any physical disorders (including fatigue, health problems, chills, body aches).
  • Adjust the intensity of your swim to your ability and don’t overestimate your swimming level. When you resume swimming after a break, focus on short distances. Before you go swimming, make sure your physical condition allows you to return. Remember that swimming in a natural environment (sea, lake, river) is more difficult and tiring than swimming in a pool
  • Do not hesitate to consult a doctor who will accompany you to resume swimming

There are risks associated with swimming at any age, and there are simple steps you can take to swim safely:

For the little ones:

  • Teach children to swim as early as possible and introduce them to the ease of water from an early age
  • Supervise children at all times, stay close to them when they are playing near the water and bathe with them when they are in the water
  • Each child must be closely and constantly supervised by a single adult who takes responsibility for them during swim time.
  • Be especially careful when swimming in “above ground” (not buried) pools that do not have safety features

For adults:

Safe to swim poster
  • It’s never too late to start or learn to swim again
  • Consider the bathing environment, especially in rivers, lakes and the sea Find out about the weather conditions and generally observe the safety instructions, bathing bans and bathe in the monitored areas marked by the bathing flags[1]where the intervention of the emergency services is quicker.
  • Tell a loved one before you swim
  • Enter the water slowly, especially after long exposure to the sun
  • Do not consume alcohol before swimming

Public Health France and the Ministries of Health and Prevention, Interior, Sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion make prevention tools available to health professionals and the general public, presenting the measures to be taken to prevent them to acquire Relax in the water, swim and practice a nautical activity in complete safety. These prevention tools are available here. A prevention campaign will be carried out throughout the summer, particularly on social networks, to inform and raise public awareness of the risks of accidental drowning.

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