Britney Lombard reminds caregivers not to leave little ones in the bathtub — not to grab a towel, not to answer the door, not for a moment.
“That one minute is when those tragedies are happening,” said Lombard, the injury prevention manager for Children’s Hospital Colorado.
In addition to her work with the hospital and Safe Kids Colorado, Lombard sits on the child fatality prevention review teams for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. In the past year, there have been at least a few bath-related deaths, she said.
For children under the age of 1, two-thirds of all drownings occur in bathtubs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Drowning in general is one of the top causes of accidental injury or death for children ages 1 through 4, according to Lombard. As such, it’s an issue she thinks everyone needs to be aware of.
“Here in Colorado, we’ve actually seen in the hospital system over 40 kids in the past year that have come in for drowning-related injuries,” Lombard said.
While some of those incidents occured in places like swimming pools or lakes, some did occur inside homes, Lombard said.
January is National Bath Safety month and, when it comes to tub time, Lombard said the top three dangers are drowning, falling and scalding.
To prevent drowning, Lombard said kids under the age of 5 should never be left alone, or even in the care of an older child, while there is water in a bathtub. Caregivers should always be within arm’s reach.
Lombard does not recommend bath chairs or flotation rings, which can give adults a false sense of security.
For young infants, only a couple of inches of water is needed for a bath. For toddlers, water up to their belly button is recommended, Lombard said. At that level, if a child slipped down, their mouth would still be above the water. And, of course, the caregiver would be there to immediately get the child upright again.
Lastly, Lombard said that once a bath is over, all standing water — in the tub and in any nearby buckets or bins — should be immediately eliminated.
“Drowning is very quick and silent,” and can happen in 30 seconds in an inch or two of water, Lombard said.
Injuries from falls can be avoided by using no-slip mats and faucet covers in the bathroom, Lombard said.
Scalds, or burns caused by water, can be prevented with two steps. First, the thermostat of a home’s water heater should be set so that the temperature of water from any hot water tap is 120 degrees or less. Second, bathwater for children should be around 100 degrees, which adults can check with a bath thermometer or with the inside of their wrist, Lombard said.
Lombard also recommends all caregivers learn CPR for infants and children.
Caregivers often hate hearing about tragedies and like to believe such events only happen to other people, Lombard said.
“The message we want to get across is that every caregiver should take the preventative steps so that they don’t become part of the statistics.”