Briefly discusses drowning hazards and teaching swimming safety. Offers tips on keeping children safe around indoor water sources, including water in bathtubs, toilets, and containers, and outdoor water hazards like pools, ditches, and wells.
Child Safety: Preventing Drowning
An infant or young child can drown in as little as
1 in. (2.5 cm) of water or
Deal with water hazards
The following recommendations can help you protect your child
from drowning hazards:1
Don't leave babies and young children alone in the bathtub or a
swimming or wading pool. If a baby slips or rolls and lands facedown, he or
she may not be able to turn over. Bathing seats or flotation devices may be
used, but they don't protect against drowning and aren't a substitute for
Don't leave babies and young children alone around filled
buckets, such as 5-gallon buckets used for cleaning. Empty buckets after each
use, and keep them out of children's reach. Buckets have tall, straight sides,
which make it very hard for infants and young children to escape if
they have fallen in.
Leave toilet lids down. Keep young children out of the bathroom
without your direct supervision. Make sure your toddler knows that the toilet
isn't a toy. Toilets are drowning hazards, especially for children younger
than 3. An older baby or young child can fall headfirst into the water and not
be able to climb back out. Consider placing a latch on the bathroom door, out
of reach of young children.
Empty all liquid containers immediately after use. Keep all
empty containers out of reach of young children and babies. Don't leave
empty containers in the yard or around the house. They can accumulate water and become a
Empty coolers immediately after use, and keep lids closed.
Store out of children's reach.
Watch children closely outdoors, especially where wells, open
postholes, and irrigation or drainage ditches are nearby. Fill holes and
install fences or other barriers to protect your child. Make sure pools are
fenced off and have covers that lock. Don't let a child out of your sight while
you are doing yard work or other outdoor activities.
Never let your child swim in any fast-moving water.
Teach swimming safety
Children need to learn to swim. You can help prevent drowning incidents by teaching your
children basic safety rules and swimming skills.
are suggestions to help you prepare your child for water-related
dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first.
Don't push or
jump on others while in the water.
Be prepared for an emergency.
Instruct children on getting help from an adult or calling
Don't let your child use inflatable swimming aids
(such as "water wings") without constant supervision. They can deflate, or a
child can slip out of them. Also, children can develop habits using
these devices that can put them at risk for drowning. For example, a child who
frequently uses water wings may learn to jump into a pool on impulse. He or she
may do so while not wearing the devices, before having a chance to think about
As a parent, learn to swim if you don't already know how.
Also, learn swimming survival and rescue techniques.
If you enroll your child in swim lessons, remember that swim lessons won't necessarily prevent drowning. Swim lessons may give you and your child a false sense of security and make you both less cautious around water. Be sure that your child swims only when a watchful adult is present.3
When visiting public or private pools, make sure that your children are supervised closely and that they are familiar with pool safety rules.
National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics, 126(1): 178–185.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.