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Risk for Fatal Drowning Up With Certain Preexisting Conditions

Last Updated: May 09, 2022.

MONDAY, May 9, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of fatal unintentional drownings in Canada occur in individuals with a preexisting medical condition, according to a study published online May 9 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Cody L. Dunne, M.D., from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, and colleagues reviewed all unintentional fatal drownings from 2007 to 2016 from the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada database. The presence of a preexisting medical condition and whether that condition contributed to the drowning was examined for each fatal drowning.

The researchers found that during 2007 to 2016, there were 4,288 unintentional fatal drownings; in 1,412 cases (32.9 percent), the person had a preexisting medical condition. In 616 individuals (43.6 percent), the preexisting medical condition contributed to the drowning. Fatal drowning occurred more often in individuals with ischemic heart disease and seizure disorders (relative risks, 2.7 and 6.3, respectively) and occurred less often in those with respiratory disease (relative risk, 0.12). The risk was 23-fold higher for women aged 20 to 34 years with a seizure disorder compared with the age- and sex-matched cohort. Among those with preexisting medical conditions, fatal drowning occurred more often when individuals were bathing or alone (relative risks, 5.9 and 1.99, respectively) and less often among men and those who had used alcohol (relative risks, 0.92 and 0.72, respectively).

"Initial public health interventions should focus on people with seizure disorders and safety in the performance of activities of daily living (e.g., bathing), as these are strongly associated with increased risk of fatal drowning," the authors write.

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