Summer Family Moments

11 Tips for Drowning Prevention & Water Safety

Big Kid 11

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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Julie... Julieryanevans

we have a pool in our backyard and while I love having it, it is a huge danger sitting there. we're very careful and are getting a pool fence installed anyday now.

Pnukey Pnukey

We have a pool in our backyard, but the kids aren't in it for one second without either my husband or me out there too. I do know CPR, just in case. I hope to God I never have to use it.

sodapple sodapple

when we go to the pool i'm always inside with my child, i don't want to take the risks.

Radarma Radarma

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?

Yes, I am very much at ease. We made a point of getting both kids interested in swimming at very young ages and now that they are 7 and 9, they are completely comfortable in a pool.


As far as building my confidence, it was a gradual progression; based on their ability and smarts. I remember clearly how anxious I was when they were learning and much smaller.

One thing I have learned is that our ears are not to be trusted around water as a secondary source of supervision. You know how we use our ears a lot to tell what they are doing, how they are doing? Well, surprisingly, when an accident in a pool/body of water happens, there is NO sound, NO noise. A child will literally slip under and there won't be a peep!

This I saw with my own eyes and thank god there was a teen ager in the backyard with everyone else and he saw the baby go under...this 14 y/o boy jumped into the pool, fully clothed and pulled the baby up. The baby's mom was literally right next to the baby the whole time; awful scary day that was for all of us moms. And that kid is still such a hero to us all!!

clean... cleanaturalady

My kids are older now, so I am not a nervous wreck, but when they were little I was pretty anxious.

Carey... Carey2006

Are you fairly at ease around water with your kids or an anxious mess like me? I think I'm OK...cuz I'm THERE....within a reaching distance of my son when we are in the water.


How have you built your confidence and peace of mind when it comes to water safety?Just by being there and working with my child...on teaching him how to swim & showing him what happens when he doesn't have his vest on....working with him on how to hold his breath when going under water and how to climb out of the pool

ethan... ethans_momma06

I am so uptight when we are around water.... all it takes is a few seconds.... oh man...

tazdvl tazdvl

I keep a close eye on my kids when they are in the water.

Patri... PatricksMama07

I have a pool and when my first son turned 6 mos old and started crawling around my husband and I immediately got a loan and had a fence put around our pool.  Today we have two toddlers, our eldest who is 2 1/2 and the youngest who is 16months.  There isn't a day that goes by that I am not worried about that pool!! Just reading this story makes me nauseated.  I can not imagine losing both of my children under any circumstances I literally think it would destroy me and DH.  This is a horrible, horrible story.  I just pray for the parents.  It makes me so sad....

coppe... copperswifey

I am nervous around rivers and stuff like that. As long as I'm close I am ok about lakes and pools :)

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