Water Safety—Prevention

If your children are around bodies of water on a regular basis, it's important to know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In case of an emergency, CPR can save lives, reduce the severity of injury, and improve the chance of survival. CPR training is available through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and your local hospital or fire department. Other specific drowning prevention tips include the following.

Infants (up to 1 year of age)

Infants can drown in just one inch of water. Most infant drownings happen in bathtubs. Some drowning prevention tips to remember around your infant include the following:

  • Never leave a young child alone in the bathtub, not even for a minute. Even supportive bathtub "rings" can't keep your child from drowning.

  • Empty any buckets or other containers of their liquids.

  • Keep bathroom doors closed and install childproof devices to keep your child out of the bathroom (such as doorknob covers).

  • Keep toilets closed and use childproof toilet locks.

Preschoolers (1 to 5 years of age)

Children in this age group most often drown in swimming pools. This often happens when the preschooler wanders away from the house and into the pool without parents being aware of the child's absence. Children can slip into swimming pools without a sound or splash.

Swimming pool safety

To protect your child from drowning in a swimming pool, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following tips:

  • Always supervise your child closely in or near a swimming pool. Never leave a small child alone in or near a pool, even for a moment.

  • Remove toys from the pool so that your child is not tempted to reach for them.

  • Always empty blow-up pools after each use, and put them away.

  • Don't let your child use a diving board in a pool that is not approved for it.

  • Avoid pool slides; they are very dangerous.

  • Keep electrical appliances away from the pool to prevent electric shock.

  • Don't allow riding toys near pools.

  • Keep a phone near the poolside for emergency use.

  • Install isolation fencing around the pool. A fence around your pool not only protects your child, but other children in the area as well. Fencing around pools should meet the following specifications to increase your child's safety:

    • The fence should separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard.

    • Fences around pools should have four sides and not include the wall of the house as one side.

    • Fencing must be at least 48 inches tall.

    • Spacing between the fence slats should be no more than 4 inches. For chain-link fences, the diamond shapes should not be bigger than 1 3/4 inches.

    • The fence should have a self-closing and self-latching gate, with latches that are above a child's reach. The gate should also open away from the pool, so that if a toddler leans against an unlatched gate, it will close.

  • Other helpful devices include pool alarms, door or gate alarms, and automatic pool covers that cover the pool completely. You can increase the safety of your child when you use these with pool fencing. Also, make sure there is no standing water on the pool cover.

School-age children (5 to 12 years of age)

Children in this age group are more likely to drown in bodies of water, such as oceans, lakes, and rivers:

  • Always supervise your child when he or she is swimming in any body of water.

  • Don't let your child dive unless you know the depth of the water and it is at least 9 feet.

  • Don't allow your child to swim during thunderstorms or lighting storms.

  • Don't let your child roughhouse with others in the water in ways that may be mistaken for drowning.

  • Teach your child to stay calm and tread water until help arrives if he or she drifts too far from shore.

  • Make sure your child wears a personal flotation device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard when boating.

  • Don't allow your child to swim around boats or in areas where people are water-skiing.

  • Avoid letting your child play with blow-up water toys in water that is above the waist.

Teens (12 to 18 years of age)

Although older children are more likely to know how to swim, they are at risk for drowning. Reasons include overestimation of their skills, unawareness of water currents or water depth, and being near water when drinking alcohol or using drugs. To protect your teen from drowning, AAP offers the following tips:

  • Insist that your teen always swim with a buddy.

  • Encourage your teen to take swimming, diving, and water safety or rescue classes to give him or her the skills needed to swim and dive safely. These classes may also prevent your teen from acting recklessly.

  • Teach your teen never to swim or dive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Make sure your teen checks the depth of the water before diving.