Water Safety for Parents
The importance of water safety
Most drownings happen in residential swimming pools. But children can drown in just
1 inch of water (such as in buckets, bathtubs, wading pools, diaper pails, toilets,
hot tubs, and spas). In addition, open waters, such as oceans, rivers, and lakes,
pose a drowning threat to older children. Most children who survive being submerged
in water without brain damage are discovered within 2 minutes. Most who die are found
after 10 minutes.
Parents are advised to take the following preventive steps to protect their children
Never leave your child unsupervised near water at or in the home, or around any body
of water, including a swimming pool of any size or depth.
Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and infant and child first aid.
Don't rely on personal flotation devices (PFDs) or swimming lessons to protect your
Install childproof fencing around swimming pools. The fencing should be at least 4
feet high and have a self-closing latch that is out of the reach of children.
Give your child swim lessons at the earliest age they can handle such lessons.
Make sure you have rescue equipment, a phone, and emergency phone numbers near the
Insist that your child wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device
on boats at all times.
Don't allow children to dive in shallow or unfamiliar waters. Always have children
enter water feet-first. Diving in shallow water can cause permanent physical disabilities
A warning about personal flotation devices
On boats, PFDs should be U.S. Coast Guard-approved and should fit correctly. Inflatable
swimming devices, such as "water wings," inflatable rafts, floating toys, and other
items, are not considered safe. Don't rely on them to prevent drowning.
Water safety in and around the home
More than half of all infant drownings (under age 1) happen in bathtubs. Supportive
baby bathtub "rings" don't prevent drownings if the child is left unsupervised. Water
hazards in and around the home may include:
Ice chests with melted ice
Hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools
Ditches and post holes
Ponds and decorative garden fountains
Small children can drown when they lean forward to look into a bucket or open the
toilet. The head is the heaviest part of a small child. So it's easy for the child
to fall over into a container. Containers filled with liquid often weigh more than
the small child and won't tip over when the child falls in.
Swimming pool safety
More than half of childhood drownings happen in swimming pools, either at the child's
home or the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. Pools are especially dangerous
Children swim unsupervised
The pool is not correctly fenced in
There is no phone with emergency numbers nearby
There is no rescue equipment near the pool
Parents rely on PFDs to keep their child safe
Open water safety
Only allow children to swim in the ocean when a lifeguard is on duty. Never let your
child swim in fast-moving water or canals. Teach your child about rip currents. If
caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until clear of the current. Never
swim against the current.
When boating, sailing, and canoeing, children of all ages should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved
PFDs, such as life jackets. In fact, many states require the use of PFDs on all boats
at all times. It's estimated that most boating-related drownings victims were not
Drowning in the winter
Children can drown during the winter by falling through thin ice. In addition, pools
with winter covers that don't completely cover the pools pose a threat. Children can
slip between the cover into the pool.
It benefits parents to learn 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.
A warning about diving
Diving accidents can result in permanent spinal cord injuries, brain damage, and death.
Diving accidents happen when a person:
Dives into shallow water.
Dives into above-ground pools, which are often shallow.
Dives into the shallow end of a pool.
Springs upward from the diving board and hits the board on the way down.