Local emergency doctor braces for wave of near-drownings with pool season

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  The beginning of pool season is usually the time when Dr. Eric Higginbotham starts to see an increase in near-drownings. 

As the Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine for Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, Higginbotham is warning parents to be prepared.

He stresses what he calls “touch supervision” for parents of young kids in the pool.

“That means having a distance where you can easily reach out and touch a child if they get into trouble while swimming, and then you can grab them and pull them out of the water,” Higginbotham says.

Just this year, The American Academy of Pediatrics made a new recommendation advising kids should start learning to swim around age one instead of age four as previously recommended.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks as the leading cause of death for children ages one to four. 

Dr. Higginbotham says there are other signs to look out for, even if children appear to be fine. Parents may not know their child took in too much water until hours later, “because what can happen is kids can usually look OK, but they have aspirated some water or have water in their lungs and over time they develop respiratory breathing [issues] because of that water.”

Dr. Higgonbotham explains if the child is having trouble breathing throughout the day or if they are coughing when they weren’t before heading to the pool, then it’s time to go to the hospital so a doctor can evaluate them.

In his work at Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Higginbotham monitors kids for six hours in near-drowning cases to make sure they are not in danger of further harm hours later.

“That’s why you should be in the water with your child and giving that supervision because ultimately drowning can be prevented,” he says, “and so it’s one of those events that is terrible when it occurs.”

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