Drowning and near drowning are major causes of childhood mortality and morbidity from injury. From 1980 to 1985, drowning was the second leading cause of injury death in the United States in infants and children under the age 15 years. In 18 of the 50 states, drowning was the number one cause of unintentional injury death in children 1 to 4 years. Children under 5 years of age and young people aged 15 to 24 years have the highest drowning rates. Drowning, by definition, is fatal; near drowning is sometimes fatal. Drowning has been defined as a death resulting from suffocation within 24 hours of submersion in water; victims of near drowning survive for at least 24 hours.

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