Drowning

Prevent drowning.Drowning continues to be a leading cause of injury and death for children under the age of 14, according to Safe Kids Greater Cincinnati, led by Cincinnati Children’s. This is particularly tragic because 100 percent of these cases are preventable. 

Most accidental drownings and near drownings occur in residential swimming pools. However, children can drown in 1 to 2 inches of water. These drownings frequently occur in bath tubs, buckets, toilets, diaper pails and wading pools.

Adult supervision is critical in the prevention of drowning – never leave your child unattended around water Taking an eye off a child in the water for as little as two seconds puts a child at risk for drowning.   Be sure to put your cell phone away and forget about all the other things you need to do.  Focus your attention on your child. 

Other Tips

  • Learn CPR
  • Keep bathroom door and toilet lids closed to prevent drowning
  • Empty all tubs and containers immediately after use.
  • Educate your kids about water safety
  • Do not rely on swimming aids (water wings / pool noodles) to keep kids safe and afloat in water

It takes only 1 inch of water to drown a toddler. Knowing where your children are, even older children, at all times, can help prevent them from drowning.

According to the Safe Kids campaign, the majority of children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, were missing from sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning. 

Identifying high-risk situations can help to keep your children safe. Some high-risk situations (at home, swimming, boating, wintertime) are outlined below.

More than half of all infant (under age 1) drownings occur in bathtubs. Supportive baby bathtub "rings" do not prevent drownings if the child is unsupervised. Water hazards in and around the home may include:

  • Buckets (especially 5-gallon size) 
  • Diaper pails
  • Toilets
  • Ice chests with melted ice
  • Hot tubs, spas, whirlpools
  • Ditches and post holes
  • Wells
  • Ponds and fountains

Small children can drown when they lean forward to look into a bucket or open the toilet. Because the head is the heaviest part of a small child, it is easy for him or her to fall over into a container. Containers filled with liquid often weigh more than the small child and will not tip over when the child falls in. 

More than half of childhood drownings occur in swimming pools, either at the child's home or at a friend's, neighbor's or relative's house. To greatly reduce swimming pool risks and drownings:

  • Children should never swim unsupervised – adult supervision is always necessary.
  • The pool should be properly fenced in.
  • Keep a telephone with emergency numbers nearby.
  • Keep rescue equipment near the pool.
  • Never rely on personal flotation devices (PFDs) (such as water wings and floating rings) to keep children safe near a pool.

Swimming Lessons Warning

Although swimming lessons for toddlers are a good way of introducing them to the water, children are not developmentally ready until the age of 4 to learn how to swim properly and safely.

In addition, swimming lessons do not ensure that your child will be safe in the water, even after the age of 4. Children who know how to swim can still drown just a few feet from safety because of confusion or fear.

When boating, sailing and canoeing, children of all ages should wear US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) such as life jackets. In fact, many states require the use of PFDs on all boats at all times. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, the majority of boating-related drownings can be prevented if people wear PFDs. 

Personal Flotation Device Warning

On boats, PFDs should be US Coast Guard-approved. Blow-up swimming devices such as “water wings,” rafts, toys and other items are not considered safe and should not be relied on to prevent drowning.

Children can drown during the winter by falling through thin ice. In addition, pools with winter covers that do not completely cover the pools pose a threat, because children can slip between the cover into the pool.

Find useful resources, flyers, fact sheets, brochures and videos to share with your family and caregivers:

For information:


Last Updated 04/2014