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Drowning deaths increase in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin

As summer arrives and temperatures rise, families flock to lakes, rivers and pools to cool off and have fun. But beneath the surface of these refreshing waters lies a growing danger that many are unaware of: the rising rates of drowning deaths in the United States, with a worrying increase in the Midwest, specifically in rural areas of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Credit: WorldLifeExpectancy.com
Credit: WorldLifeExpectancy.com

Recent statistics have revealed a worrying trend. Nationally, the drowning death rate has increased nearly 10% over the past decade. For Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, the numbers are even more alarming. Illinois reported a 15% increase in drowning deaths over the past five years, while Iowa and Wisconsin saw increases of 12% and 13%, respectively. These statistics underscore a pressing public health issue that requires immediate attention and action.

Breaking down the numbers

In Illinois, urban areas such as Chicago have seen a significant increase in drowning incidents, particularly in Lake Michigan. Despite being a city renowned for its coastal attractions, the combination of strong currents and unpredictable weather has proven fatal for many. In 2023 alone, 45 drownings were reported in Lake Michigan, a sharp increase from previous years.

Credit: Canva

Credit: Canva

Iowa, with its many rivers and lakes, is not faring much better. The Mississippi River, which borders the state, has become a hotspot for drowning incidents. In the last two years, there have been more than 30 drownings in the Mississippi River alone. Rural Iowa also faces challenges due to limited access to swim lessons and water safety education.

Credit: Canva

Credit: Canva

Wisconsin’s picturesque lakes attract countless visitors each summer, but they also come with risks. The state has seen an increase in drowning deaths, particularly among teenagers and young adults. In 2023, Wisconsin reported 60 drowning deaths, many of which occurred at popular recreational locations such as Lake Geneva and Wisconsin Dells.

Credit: Canva

Credit: Canva

Several factors contribute to this upward trend in drowning deaths:

  • Lack of swimming skills: Many children and adults in the Midwest do not receive adequate swimming lessons. This lack of basic water survival skills significantly increases the risk of drowning.
  • Increased recreational water use: The popularity of water-related activities has increased, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, as people sought outdoor activities. Unfortunately, this increase in water activity has led to more accidents.
  • alcohol consumption: Alcohol is a major risk factor in drowning incidents. Many drownings occur during social gatherings where alcohol is consumed, which impairs judgment and the ability to swim.
  • Inadequate supervision: Children are particularly vulnerable to drowning, often due to insufficient supervision. It only takes a moment of distraction for a tragedy to occur.

Credit: Canva

Credit: Canva

Addressing rising drowning rates requires a concerted effort by individuals, communities and policymakers. Here are some crucial prevention strategies:

  • Education and Awareness: Increase public awareness about water safety. Schools, community centers and local governments should promote swimming lessons and water safety courses.
  • Supervision: Never leave children alone near water, even for a moment. Designate a responsible adult as a “water watcher” who will stay focused on supervising the children. This includes toddlers, especially ages 0-4, during baths at home!
  • Lifevest: Encourage the use of life jackets, especially for young children and inexperienced swimmers, when in or near the water.
  • Avoid alcohol: Refrain from consuming alcohol before or during swimming, boating or other water activities.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills. Immediate response can save lives in drowning situations.

As we enjoy the summer months and the beautiful waterways of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, let’s prioritize safety and make sure our time on the water is fun and safe. By taking some proactive measures, we can turn the tide on this worrying trend and avoid unnecessary tragedies.

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