Keeping Our Children Safe Around Water
Published: May 1, 2024
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Keeping Our Children Safe Around Water

May is National Water Safety Month! As we enter the summer season, this is a great time to review water safety as a family. Most of us think of water safety when discussing things like pools an swim lessons, however any body of water can pose the threat of drowning, especially for young children. Let’s discuss some water safety tips by age group and then we will review some general water safety tips that can apply to anyone.


Babies can drown in as little as 1-2 inches of water. Remember, infants have little to no neck and muscle control, depending on their age. This means that even a small amount of water covering their nose and/or mouth will result in them not being able to breathe. Drowning can happen within seconds and is usually silent, which is why you should never leave your baby in the bathtub, or any water, alone. You should always stay within arm’s reach of your baby when in or near the water. Most drownings that occur inside a home occur in bathtubs; and more than half of bathtub related deaths involve children under the age of 1 year.


The toddler years have a higher risk of drowning than any other age. After birth defects, drowning is the number 1 cause of death in children ages 1 to 4 years old. It is also important to be aware that more than half the drownings that occur in this age group happen during “non-swim” times. This means that these drownings are occurring when the toddlers have access to water when caregivers are not expecting it or when the toddlers are unsupervised. The following precautions will help keep your home safer from an accidental drowning:

  • A pool fence at least 4 feet high.
  • The pool fence should not have openings underneath or between slats that are greater than 4 inches.
  • Have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool. Keep the gate locked at all times.
  • Keep toys out of the pool area when not in use, so that children are not tempted to enter near the pool during non-swim times.
  • Remove other bodies of water than can pose a threat like fountains, ponds, or wells.
  • Use things like door locks and doorknob covers to prevent children from getting outside unnoticed.

School age and Teens:

Adolescents (ages 15-19 years old) have the 2nd highest fatal drowning rate of the age groups. As we read earlier, only toddlers have a higher risk. This is usually due to one of the following factors:

  • Teens tend to feel invincible and may either overestimate their skills or underestimate the dangers of a situation.
  • Research has shown that alcohol is a leading risk factor in drownings as well and is a cause in about 30-70% of water related deaths among US adolescents.

Surprisingly, adolescents have a higher rate of fatal drownings in natural bodies of water, like lakes, oceans, and rivers. Keep the following safety precautions in mind when it comes to teens and water safety:

  • Ensure that everyone knows how to swim!
  • Continue to always have adult supervision. Even older children and teens, who know how to swim, should still have adult supervision.
  • Teach children and teens to always enter the water feet first. This helps kids become aware of any hazards under the water and prevents serious injuries, like spinal injuries, that can occur from diving.
  • Always wear a life jacket when boating.
  • Talk with teens about staying sober in the water.
  • Choose swimming spots in natural bodies of water carefully. Avoid beaches with large waves or rip currents, avoid areas where people are boating or fishing, and choose areas with lifeguards present.

Water Safety Tips for Adults and Children:

We discussed earlier removing other bodies of water like fountains or ponds that might be at your home. This also holds true for other common water containers around the house, such as buckets, coolers, or small wading pools for kids. Any open-top water container should be emptied after each use to prevent accidental drownings.

Every child (and adult) should receive swim lessons as soon as they are ready. Most children are ready for swim lessons by age 4, but many are ready to start even earlier. Remember, swim lessons are only one piece of water safety. All of the other safety topics that we have discussed should still be in place.

When you have children that will be around water, it’s best to designate an adult to watch the water. This person should be free from distractions, like cell phones or cooking. Adults can take turns in this role. Many times, in larger gatherings adults can get distracted and may think someone else is watching the children. Always have one adult that will give their complete attention to the children in the water.

Lastly, adults and even older children should learn basic CPR so that they can respond to a drowning or near drowning.


This blog was written by Pediatric Associates’ Brandi Duran, APRN, CPNP-PC, DNP