Health and Wellness Information

Water safety and drowning

Water safety and drowning

Staying safe in and around water

Drowning is a leading cause of death among people of all ages. Learning and practicing water safety is important to prevent drowning accidents.

Water safety

Water safety tips for all ages include:

  • Learn CPR.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Never dive into water unless you know beforehand how deep it is.
  • Know your limits. Do not go into areas of water that you cannot handle.
  • Stay out of strong currents even if you are strong swimmer.
  • Learn about rip currents and undertows and how to swim out of them.
  • Always wear life preservers when boating, even if you know how to swim.
  • Do not overload your boat. If your boat turns over, stay with the boat until help arrives.

Do not drink alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children around water.

When boating, know local weather conditions and forecasts. Watch for dangerous waves and rip currents.

Children and water safety

Put a fence around all home swimming pools.

  • The fence should completely separate the yard and house from the pool.
  • The fence should be 4 feet or higher.
  • The latch to the fence should be self-closing and out of the reach of children.
  • Keep the gate closed and latched at all times.

When leaving the pool, put away all toys from the pool and deck. This helps remove temptation for children to enter the pool area.

At least one responsible adult should supervise young children when they swim or play in or around water.

  • The adult should be close enough to reach a child at all times.
  • Supervising adults should not be reading, talking on the phone, or doing any other activities that keep them from watching the child or children at all times.
  • Never leave young children unattended in a wading pool, swimming pool, lake, ocean, or stream -- not even for a second.

Teach your children to swim. But understand that this alone will not prevent young children from drowning. Air-filled or foam toys (wings, noodles, and inner tubes) are not a replacement for life jackets when boating or when your child is in open water.

Prevent drowning around the home:

  • All buckets, wading pools, ice chests, and other containers should be emptied right after use and stored upside down.
  • Learn to practice good bathroom safety measures, as well. Keep toilet lids closed. Use toilet seat locks until your children are around 3 years old. Do not leave young children unattended while they take baths.
  • Keep doors to your laundry room and bathrooms closed at all times. Consider installing latches on these doors that your child cannot reach.
  • Be aware of irrigation ditches and other areas of water drainage around your home. These also create drowning dangers for small children.

References

Shephard E, Quan L. Drowning and submersion injury. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 67.

American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Policy statement -- prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2010;126:178-185.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Home and recreational safety: unintentional drowning: get the facts. Available at: //www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html. Accessed August 27, 2013.


Review Date: 8/22/2013
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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