Skip to Content

Menu Icon
Menu
Menu Icon

Child Safety: Preventing Drowning

Topic Overview

An infant or young child can drown in as little as 1 in. (2.5 cm) of water or other liquid.

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 your attention.
  • 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 drowning hazard.
  • 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.

The following are suggestions to help you prepare your child for water-related activities:

  • Teach your children four key swimming rules:2
    1. Always swim with a buddy.
    2. Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first.
    3. Don't push or jump on others while in the water.
    4. Be prepared for an emergency. Instruct children on getting help from an adult or calling 911.
  • 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 it.
  • 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.

Other Places To Get Help

Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
TDD: 1-888-232-6348
Email: healthyswimming@cdc.gov
Web Address: www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming
 

The CDC Healthy Swimming website provides tips and fact sheets to help people reduce the chances of getting an illness from swimming in recreational waters such as lakes, rivers, swimming pools, and oceans. CDC's Healthy Swimming program also provides resources to raise awareness about recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and how to prevent them by practicing "Healthy Swimming" behaviors.


References

Citations

  1. Consumer Product Safety Commission (2012). Prevent child in-home drowning deaths. CPSC Document No. 5013. Available online:
  2. National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
  3. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics, 126(1): 178–185.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2011). Water safety and young children. Available online:
  • Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics, 126(1): 178–185.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised November 26, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.