11 Tips for Drowning Prevention & Water Safety

girl child swimming pool lessons
Photo by Momof3cuties
We got our first invitation to a summer pool party, and since my son hasn't been swimming since last summer (swim lessons coming in July), my ongoing drowning fears came rushing to the surface. *Deep breath* *Another deep breath* We can do this.

I found this updated guidance on drowning prevention and water safety from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) helpful. I tend to feel completely out of control when it comes to my drowning fears, so it helps to see all the ways we can put drowning prevention into practice. 


In its updated policy, the AAP revised its guidance on swimming lessons and highlights new drowning risks -- including large, inexpensive, portable, and inflatable pools -- that have emerged in the past few years

Fortunately, drowning rates have fallen steadily from 2.68 per 100,000 in 1985 to 1.32 per 100,000 in 2006. However, drowning continues to be the second-leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19, claiming the lives of roughly 1,100 children in 2006. Toddlers and teenaged boys are at greatest risk.

"To protect their children, parents need to think about layers of protection," said Jeffrey Weiss, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, available online and which also will be published in the July print issue of Pediatrics.

"Children need to learn to swim," Dr. Weiss said. "But even advanced swimming skills cannot ‘drown-proof' a child of any age. Parents must also closely supervise their children around water and know how to perform CPR."

AAP offers specific drowning prevention and water safety advice for parents:

  1. Never -- even for a moment -- leave small children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas, or wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or standing water. Special drain covers and other devices that release the pressure in a drain can prevent the danger of body entrapment and hair entanglement in a pool or spa drain. Bath seats cannot substitute for adult supervision. Empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use. To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom.
  2. Closely supervise children in and around water. With infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers, an adult should be within an arm's length. With older children and better swimmers, an adult should be focused on the child and not distracted by other activities.
  3. If children are in out-of-home childcare, ask about exposure to water and the ratio of adults to children
  4. If you have a pool (even a large, inflatable, or otherwise above-ground pool), install a four-sided fence that is at least four feet high to limit access to the pool. The fence should be hard to climb (not chain-link) and have a self-latching, self-closing gate. A fence that completely surrounds the pool -- isolating it from the house -- can cut drowning risk in half. Families may consider pool alarms and rigid pool covers as additional layers of protection, but neither can take the place of a fence. From 2004 to 2006, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 47 deaths of children related to inflatable pools. "Because some of these pools have soft sides, it is very easy for a child to lean over and fall headfirst into the water," Dr. Weiss said. "These pools pose a constant danger."
  5. Children need to learn to swim. AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older. Classes may reduce the risk of drowning in younger children as well, but because children develop at different rates, not all children will be ready to swim at the same age. Dr. Weiss said, "Swimming lessons can be an important part of the overall protection, which should include pool barriers and constant, capable supervision." 
  6. Parents, caregivers, and pool owners should learn CPR.
  7. Do not use air-filled swimming aids (such as inflatable arm bands) in place of life jackets. They can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  8. All children should wear a life jacket when riding in a boat. Small children and nonswimmers should also wear one at water's edge, such as on a river bank or pier.
  9. Parents should know the depth of the water and any underwater hazards before allowing children to jump in. The first time you enter the water, jump feet first; don't dive.
  10. When choosing an open body of water for children to swim in, select a site with lifeguards. Swimmers should know what to do in case of rip currents (swim parallel to the shore until out of the current, then swim back to the shore).
  11. Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.

Are you fairly at ease around water with your kids or an anxious mess like me? How have you built your confidence and peace of mind when it comes to water safety?

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