Water Safety

If children are around bodies of water on a regular basis, it benefits parents to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which, in case of an emergency, can save lives, reduce the severity of injury, and improve the chance of survival.

CPR training is available through the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.

Infants can drown in just one inch of water.

Most infant drowning occurs in bathtubs. Some drowning prevention tips include:

  • Never leave a young child alone in the bathtub, not even for a minute. Even supportive bathtub "rings" cannot keep your child from drowning.
  • Empty any buckets or other containers with liquids.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed and install child-proof devices to keep your child out of the bathroom (such as doorknob covers).
  • Keep toilets closed or use child-proof toilet locks.

Children in this age group most often drown in swimming pools. This often occurs 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.

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 your child is not tempted to reach for them.
  • Always empty blow-up pools after each use, and put them away.
  • Do not 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 shocks.
  • Do not allow riding toys near pools.
  • Keep a telephone near the poolside for emergency use.
  • Do not let your children use air-filled "swimming aids" because they are not an approved life vest and can be extremely dangerous.
  • Install isolation fencing around all four sides of a pool. A fence around your pool not only protects your child, but other children in the area as well. Fencing around pools should adhere to the following specification:
    • 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 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool.
    • 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, which, when used with pool fencing, maximize the safety of your child, include pool alarms, door or gate alarms and automatic pool covers that cover the pool completely. Make sure there is no standing water on the pool cover.

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

  • Always supervise your child when he or she is swimming in any body of water.
  • Do not let your child dive unless you know the depth of the water and it is at least 9 feet.
  • Do not allow your child to swim during thunderstorms or lighting storms.
  • Do not let your child rough-house 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 (PFD) approved by the US Coast Guard when boating.
  • Do not 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.

Although older children are more likely to know how to swim, they are at risk for drowning by overestimating their skills, being unaware of water currents or water depth, and when drinking alcohol or using drugs.

To protect your teen from drowning, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips:

  • Insist that your teen always swim with a buddy.
  • Encourage teens to take swimming, diving and water safety or rescue classes to give them 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.

Swimming Lessons

  • Although swimming lessons for toddlers are a good way of introducing them to the water, they are not developmentally ready until the age of 4 to learn how to swim properly and safely.
  • Swimming lessons do not ensure that your child will be safe in the water, even over the age of 4. Children who know how to swim can still drown just a few feet from safety because of confusion or fear.

Personal Flotation Devices

  • On boats, personal floatation devices should be US-Coast Guard-approved. In fact, many states require the use of personal floatation devices on all boats at all times. 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.
  • It is important that the personal floatation device is the correct size for your child. (Life jackets are usually labeled "adult" or "child.") However, personal floatation devices do not replace adult supervision.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 85 percent of boating-related drowning can be prevented with the proper use of personal floatation devices.


Diving accidents can result in permanent spinal cord injuries, brain damage or death. Diving accidents occur when a person:

  • Dives into shallow water
  • Dives into above-ground pools, which are usually shallow
  • Dives into the shallow end of a pool
  • Springs upward from the diving board and hits the board on the way down

Last Updated 04/2015