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Background Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children 1-4 years old and the second leading cause for children 5-9 years old. Most prior epidemiology work has focused on submersions in below-ground swimming pools and natural bodies of water. Portable pools pose a new and emerging risk for drowning due to their affordability, convenience, and easy assembly. Successful drowning prevention consumer products, such as 4-sided fencing, may prove more difficult to implement with portable pools, and currently are not marketed for such use. Furthermore, parental perceptions and knowledge of drowning risks associated with portable pools has not yet been well studied.

Methods We performed a prospective study of caregivers to children aged 9 months to 6 years in an urban pediatric emergency department during summer 2021. Enrolled caregivers were given a QR code that directed them to complete a self-administered questionnaire on their mobile device. Survey questions assessed the caregivers’ access to portable pools and their safety behaviors and attitudes related to portable pools. Frequencies of portable pool ownership, caregivers’ safety practices while using them, and caregivers’ behavioral perceptions were calculated.

Results Of the 85 caregivers enrolled in the study, 54% reported either owning or having access to a portable pool. Of the subset who owned portable pools, a majority (n=23/28) bought their portable pool in 2021, but only 28% (n=8/28) used any safety products with their pool and only 10% had previously enrolled their child in formal swim lessons. The primary reasons portable pool owners did not use safety products included perceived lack of necessity of such products for portable pools and confidence in close supervision while their child is swimming. While all caregivers (n=85/85) responded they would always watch their child in the shallow end of a below-ground pool, 14% (n=12/85) of caregivers responded they would only watch their child intermittently while in a portable pool. Over 48% (n=41/85) of caregivers thought they would hear their child if he/she was drowning in a portable pool.

Conclusions Parents may underestimate the risk associated with portable pools, which could contribute to young children’s risk of drowning in these pools. These results provide insights that could be used in the development of drowning prevention messaging and the development of prevention strategies specifically targeting portable pool users.




Presented at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition, Virtual, Oct. 8-11, 2021.

Descriptive Study of the Safety Behaviors and Attitudes of Portable Pool Owners

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