The number of drownings reported by The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida since January has already surpassed that of last year in the same time frame.
In 2011, The Children's Hospital recorded 33 near-drownings and one death. Since January of this year, there have been 17 near-drownings and three deaths, which all occurred in swimming pools reported by The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Michele King, Child Advocacy Program Director for The Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, said in general, swimming pools are the culprit.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, males are four times more likely to be victims of drowning. They also state that half of all of the drownings occur in swimming pools.
"Just one child dying or suffering lifelong impairment from drowning is one too many," Dr. Alex Daneshmand, critical care pediatrician with the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, said in a prepared statement. "Summer is the time of year when the number of drownings escalates as everyone hits the water to escape the heat and children are out of school. Considering drownings are 100 percent preventable, we have to step up our efforts to protect our children."
King said the 17 children that were treated for near drowning and the three that have passed due to drowning were all 4 years old and younger.
Drowning, she said, is the leading cause of death for kids 4 years old and younger.
"In the state of Florida, we lose the equivalent of three classrooms of preschoolers to drowning each year," King said in a prepared statement.
King said drowning and near drowning is not necessarily unique to the area.
"It is a problem statewide," she said.
The Pine Island Pool's motto is to make "Every Child A Swimmer," which decreases the chances of drowning from occurring through the multiple swimming lessons offered.
"Swimming lessons are another layer of protection, a very important layer," King said.
Sandra Reynolds, aquatic supervisor for the Pine Island Pool, said they offer 43 swimming classes during the summer, which includes weekdays, weekends and nights. Those taking the eight-week program range in age from 3-9 years old.
This summer, the Pine Island Pool had 144 children take swim lessons.
Reynolds encourages parents to sign their children up for swim lessons by the age of 3. She said they offer three lower level swimming lessons in the spring and fall.
With assistance from Bobby Holloway Jr. Foundation and the Matlacha Mariners, youngsters have the opportunity to take swimming lessons at the Pine Island Pool even if money is tight for their families through scholarships.
Reynolds said although every instructor has a different teaching method, the lesson plans are the same unless the child requires some alterations.
"You have to use different techniques," Reynolds said, to ensure every child is grasping the concept.
For instance, she said, if a child does not like to put his or her face in the water, the instructors use a toy ring for them to leave the steps and progress into the deeper water.
"They are having fun and don't even realize they have put their face in," Reynolds said.
The swimming lessons are important to Reynolds because Pine Island is surrounded by water.
"Every child should at least know the dangers of not knowing how to swim," she said.
When at the Pine Island Pool, Reynolds said there are some very important rules for everyone to follow to ensure safety. She said those include, no running or diving in shallow water, as well as feet first when coming down the slide on your bottom, no back flips on the dive board and no spinning around off the side of the dive board.
King said there are typically two scenarios that they see when near drowning and drownings take place - a gathering of some kind with lots of people at the pool and no one around the pool.
She said when there is a gathering of people for a family day or a special event like a birthday, everyone assumes someone is watching the kids.
There should be one designated adult water watcher at all times. King said.
Adults should have a physical reminder that they are watching the kids at the moment, so they can switch off every 20 minutes with another adult.
"It is such a devastating injury," she said. "It is a very difficult thing to live with."
The parents should sit within arms length of the pool, King said with their eyes in and around the pool.
"People really have to get serious of how fast and quietly it happens and take it seriously," she said. "Children shouldn't be left to watch children. It should be on parents and not another child."
Reynolds said when using a pool at home, it is important to always make sure a parent is watching their child and not talking on the phone, cooking or texting.
"So many drownings happen at home pools because someone thought someone else was watching the children," she said. "There is no excuse for adults not watching the water at all times."
The other scenario - children going to the pool when no on is there - King said typically happens when everyone is inside. She said it happens when an adult looses sight of a child for a few minutes and they wander towards the pool.
King said if there are layers of protection from the pool - doors shut to the pool, doors locked in the home, an alarm set to sound if doors were open and a fence around the pool with a south closing and latching gate - it will buy the adult time to find their missing child.
If none of those barriers are in place, King said there is a very short period of time for the kids to make it to the water.
"Layers of protection are very important," she said.
Toys, like rafts and balls, King said, should be removed from the pool after swimming is over to take away the attraction of wanting to go into the pool.
CPR training is also encouraged for parents with youngsters and a pool.
"It is highly recommended for water safety," King said.
She said when a parent pulls a child out of a pool and administers CPR immediately it generally makes for a better outcome than if you have to wait for EMS to arrive.
For more information regarding drowning prevention, visit www.safekidsleecollier.org.