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We are pleased to bring you the 19th edition of Fast Facts. This is a brief report on
local data that we believe you will find useful in both understanding and improving the
health of our community. Our goal is to keep it brief and instructive and to provide opportunities for all persons to positively impact the issue. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, board members, legislators and others in the community. Special thanks to Scott Monnett with YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne for contributing to this report.
Summertime provides plenty of opportunities for swimming and boating. But with it comes the increased risk of drowning, the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years and the fifth leading cause for people of all age. 

Ten people die every day from unintentional drowning.  Drowning is quick and silent and a child can drown in less than one minute in as little as one inch of water.  About half of all drownings occur in natural water settings such as lakes, rivers, or oceans.  In 2007, at least 43% of all recreational water drownings occurred in natural water settings. Another 9% of drownings occurred in boating incidents, for a total of 52%. This is almost three times the number of drownings occurring in swimming pools in the same year (19%).[i]


As an individual drowns, his or her lungs will fill with water and the ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream is diminished. As you struggle to breathe, water is forced into the sinuses. Losing your air supply and also using up too much energy will lead to the oxygen in your blood falling rapidly, and as a result the individual will lose consciousness in a very short space of time. There is usually no warning, such as screams or splashing.[ii]


There are significant differences in drowning rates between boys and girls.  As infants, boys and girls have a similar risk of drowning in natural water settings. But after the age of one, males are at a substantially increased risk of drowning, accounting for 88% of all drownings in natural water settings, including while boating.[i]  


Rates of drowning death also vary with age and race.  Among Blacks, drowning rates increase through childhood and peak at 15 to 19 years of age. Drowning rates among Whites are higher than Blacks and Hispanics between ages zero and 4 years of age, and then decrease from 5 to 14, and peak between ages 15 to 24 years. Among Hispanics, drowning rates increase substantially at 15 to 19 years, and peak between the ages of 20 and 24 years.  


From 2000 to 2006, the highest death rates were seen in white males 0 to 4 years of age (3.53 per 100,000) and black male adolescents 15 to 19 years of age (4.46 per 100,000).[iii]

Local Data


Drownings in Fort Wayne and surrounding area  


2014 (to date)
Age Range16 to 40 years2 to 86 years14 months to 26 years
Other race0%17%0%
Location of Drowning   
Lake 0% 25% 0%
Pool  0%8%  0%
Other 0%8% 




While it is impossible to quantify the emotional and sociological impact that drowning has had over generations, we know that the lifetime medical costs for unintentional drowning deaths in 2005 in the U.S. totaled almost $13 million.

What You Can Do


 As a health care provider:   

  • Alert parents to the dangers that water presents at different ages and in different situations. This can be done via direct counseling, handouts, websites, and other educational methods, or as part of routine anticipatory guidance.[i]  

  • Advise parents and caregivers that they should never - even for a moment - leave small children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas, wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or other open standing water.[ii]  
  • Counsel parents that infant bath seats can tip over and children can slip out of them, and therefore bath seats cannot be a substitute for adult supervision.[i]  

  • Identify families who have residential (home and apartment complex) swimming pools and include periodic drowning-prevention counseling during routine health visits.[i] 

As a parent:

  • Set expectations for children around water ahead of time. No one should be allowed to swim alone, even if they are a strong swimmer. Following the rules of a pool is also key: no running, no horseplay, no diving into shallow water. The American Red Cross recommends against any type of breath-holding competition.[iii]  
  • Install a 4-sided fence that completely isolates the pool from the house and yard. This has shown to be effective in preventing more than 50% of swimming-pool drownings of young children.[i] 
  • Enroll your children in local swimming and water-survival skills training. This has shown to lower drowning rates in 1- to 4-year-old children.[i]
  • Make inexperienced or non-swimmers wear a Coast-Guard-approved life jacket. 


The YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne offers swim lessons (for all ages), family swim, competitive swimming teams and many kinds of adaptive swim programs to meet the diverse and unique needs of children and adults. Contact your local branch or visit for more information. 


*Nationwide the Y is the largest operator of swimming pools in the United States, with more than 2,200 pools.   In Greater Fort Wayne, the Y operates indoor pools at the Parkview Family YMCA, Central YMCA, Renaissance Pointe Family YMCA, Whitley County Family YMCA and indoor and outdoor pools at Jorgensen Family YMCA.  Our 6th indoor pool is scheduled to open late 2014 at Wells County.


*Today, tens of millions of people across the United States have learned how to swim at the YMCA, including Olympic Gold Medalists Cullen Jones and Ian Crocker, as well as former President Ronald Reagan.  Locally, the Y teaches thousands of youth and adults to swim each year. 



Other helpful links:


Fast Facts is a collaboration of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and
United Way 2-1-1 of Northeast Indiana
  Contact Deborah McMahan, MD or John Silcox
 c/o Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health