How To Prevent Your Child From Drowning: Essential Guide for Parents

Drowning is a silent killer. It often happens when you least expect it, and the results are tragic.

This blog post will discuss key steps that every parent can take to prevent their child from drowning. We will also provide tips for what to do if your child does drown.

Please share this information with your friends and family so that everyone can stay safe around water!

How Many Children Drown In The US Per Year?

Accidental drowning is the #1 killer of toddlers. In the US, approximately 950 children drown each year. That’s more than two kids every day.

Compared with the rest of the world, the US has the second-highest rate of drownings among children ages one to four. This is probably due to the fact that many young US children live near water and have easy access to it.

Children under five years are most likely to drown in private pools, rural dams and bathtubs.

Drowning deaths among children 0-4 years by location.

What Age Children Are Most At Risk From Drowning?

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages one to four. Moreover, it is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14 years old.

Boys are more likely to drown than girls. In fact, boys drown at a rate almost four times that of girls.

There are several risk factors that increase a child’s likelihood of drowning. These include:

  • Being male
  • Being under five years old
  • Having a seizure disorder
  • Being black or Hispanic
  • Having a developmental delay
  • Not knowing how to swim

Does Near-Drowning Cause Ongoing Health Problems?

For every child who drowns, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that can lead to a lifetime of disabilities. These disabilities include physical, cognitive, and social impairments and occur in 7% of all drowning cases.

DROWNING TYPEANNUAL CASES IN THE USAVERAGE PER DAY
Fatal396011
Non-fatal808022
Annual drownings among children in the US. Source: CDC.

For example, a child who survives a near-drowning incident may have permanent brain damage that leads to a vegetative state. Parents of children who nearly drowned report PTSD symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

How To Ensure Child Safety Around Swimming Pools?

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most drownings occur in backyard pools.

To reduce the risk of drowning, install a self-latching gate around the pool. This will ensure that young children cannot get into the pool area without an adult.

In addition to a self-latching gate, you should also have a backyard pool fence. The pool fence should be at least four feet tall and completely surround the pool. If the fence is faulty, replace it immediately.

Keep essential rescue equipment items by the pool. These include a life jacket or a personal flotation device (more on these later), a shepherd’s hook, and a phone.

Never:

  • Prop pool gates open
  • Leave furniture or toys near the pool fence (kids love to climb).

The Haddon Matrix, created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, provides a very comprehensive set of drowning prevention strategies. Designed for commercial and public swimming pools, it can be used to inform your actions in a recreational and/or domestic environment.

TimelinePersonalEquipmentPhysical EnvironmentSocial Environment
Before the event 
Provide close, constant, and attentive supervision of children and poor swimmers Install 4-sided fencing that isolates the pool from the house and yard Swim where lifeguards are present Mandate 4-sided residential pool fencing 

Before the event 
Clear handoff supervision responsibilities Install self-closing and latching gatesAttend to warning signage 
Mandate life jacket wear 
Before the event 
Develop water competency, including water-safety knowledge, basic swim skills, and ability to recognize and respond to a swimmer in trouble 
Wear life jackets 
Swim at designated swim sites 
Adopt the Model Aquatic Health Code 

Before the event 
Evaluate preexisting health condition Install compliant pool drains 
Remove toys from pools when not in use to reduce temptation for children to enter the pool 
Increase availability of lifeguards 

Before the event 
Know how to choose and fit a life jacket 
Install door locks 
Empty water buckets and wading pools 
Increase access to affordable and culturally compatible swim lessons 

Before the event 
Avoid substance use 
Enclosures for open bodies of water 
Close high-risk waters during high-risk times 

Before the event 
Know the water’s hazards, conditions 
Promote life jacket–loaner programs 
Develop designated open-water swim sites  

Before the event 
Swim at a designated swim site 
Role model life jacket use by adults 
Enforce boating under the influence laws  

Before the event 
Learn CPR 
Make rescue devices available at swim sites 
Before the event 
Take a boater education course 
Phone access to call for help 
Before the event 
Ensure functional watercraft 
Event Water-survival skills Rescue device available EMS system
After the event Early bystander CPRAEDAdvanced medical care 
After the event Bystander response Rescue equipment 
The Model Aquatic Health Code provides guidelines and standards for equipment, staffing and training, and for monitoring backyard swimming pools. Bold indicates the most evidence-based interventions.

What Are The Signs That Your Child Is Drowning?

The number one sign that your child is drowning is that they will NOT be able to call for help. They will also likely extend their arms out to the side and try to paddle their legs.

If you see these signs, it is essential to act quickly and pull your child out of the water.

If you are ever in doubt about whether or not your child is drowning, err on the side of caution and call for help.

Remember that real-life drowning does not look like it does in the movies. There’s typically minimal splashing or screaming.

How Quickly Do Children Drown?

It can take as little as 20 seconds for a child to drown. One- and two-year-old children are particularly at risk because they lack the coordination and strength to swim.

What Is The Correct Way Of Designating A Responsible Adult?

Ironically, many drownings occur with plenty of adults around – because everybody assumes somebody else is watching the kids.

You must ensure that the swimming area is under close and constant supervision by a designated responsible adult. It means the children must be in the designated person’s line of sight at all times.

This designated adult should not be distracted by things like phone calls, conversations, or other children. They should be paying attention to the water and the swimmers at all times.

As the title suggests, the person supervising children should be an adult who is at least 18 years of age.

If you are the designated water watcher, take breaks every 15 minutes. This will help to ensure that you are not too tired and can still pay attention to the swimmers.

When taking a break, be sure to designate another responsible adult to take your place. Proper supervision means giving ALL of your attention, ALL of the time.

What To Do If Your Child Has Drowned?

First, scream for someone to call 911.

Next, act quickly to get the child out of the water as soon as possible.

Turn their head to the side so that any vomit or fluid can drain out of their mouth. If the child isn’t breathing, start CPR (see next point) and continue until they begin to breathe on their own again.

Stay within arm’s reach of your child until help arrives.

Why Is Your Child Afraid Of Water?

A fear of water is common in small children and is usually nothing to worry about.

It’s often a phase that they’ll grow out of as they get older and become more comfortable around water.

Make sure you don’t use your kid’s fear of water as an excuse not to teach them not to swim, as this will significantly increase their chances of drowning.

There are some things you can do to help your child overcome their fear:

  • Start with small steps – let them get used to the idea of being in the water gradually.
  • Encourage them to splash around and have fun.
  • Make sure they always have a floatation device with them when they’re in the water.
  • Never force them to do anything they’re not comfortable with.

If their fear persists, it might be worth talking to a professional about it.

Where Can I Learn CPR?

CPR saves lives. You must know how to perform CPR in case of an emergency. You can find CPR classes at your local hospital or Red Cross chapter.

Here are a few quick tips for performing CPR:

  • If the child is unresponsive, call 911 and then begin chest compressions.
  • Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  • Use both hands and press down at least two inches.

Do Swim Lessons Prevent Drownings?

You must teach children how to swim. The earlier, the better, but no earlier than age 1. Your child should have strong swimming skills by age four.

Make sure to enrol your child in swimming lessons taught by a certified instructor.

Your child should take lessons every year to refresh their skills and stay safe in the water.

What Equipment Is Effective At Preventing Drownings?

Life jackets are one of the most useful rescue equipment for preventing drowning. Ensure a life jacket or personal flotation device for every child when you are near open water.

It is also essential to make sure that the life jacket fits properly.

A pool alarm is another safety piece of equipment that can assist you in preventing a drowning death in your family. Located out of children’s reach, the alarm will emit a loud tone when someone enters the water. This may give you precious seconds to reach your kid and save them from drowning by giving you time to react.

Water wings are not effective at preventing drownings! Don’t rely on them.

Above all, remember that the presence of flotation devices or warning alarms must not take the place of active supervision.

What Are The Peak Drowning Times?

Most kids drown during the summer months, between June and August. The peak time for drownings is between the hours of 12 p.m. and six p.m.

Which Water Rules Does Your Child Need To Learn?

Teach your child the following 4 water safety rules:

  1. Reach or throw, don’t go. This rule applies when someone else is in trouble in the water and you need to help them.
  2. If you see something, say something. If you see somebody in trouble, tell a grown-up right away.
  3. Stop, look, and listen. Before going near the water, stop and look to see if it is safe. Listen for any unusual sounds.
  4. Be a buddy, not a bully. Never push or grab somebody in the water. Be nice to others in and around the water.

What Is The Main Cause Of Drowning When Boating?

Operator inattention is the leading cause of boating accidents. Alcohol use is the second-leading cause of fatal boating accidents and can contribute to the first-leading cause.

Other causes include improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and machinery failure. Weather conditions such as high winds, waves, or lightning can also contribute to accidents.

Unfortunately, children are often over-represented in boating-related drownings.

Most of these accidents are preventable if boaters follow some simple safety rules:

  • Wear a life jacket at all times.
  • Never drink and boat.
  • Take a boating safety course.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions.
  • Have a float plan and make sure someone on shore knows your plan.
  • Check the boat’s safety equipment and make sure it is in working order.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Follow the speed limit.
  • Do not overload the boat.

Do Medications Increase The Risk Of Drowning?

Some medications can increase the risk of drowning. These include alcohol, sedatives, and anti-seizure medication.

If you are on medication that increases your risk of drowning, don’t swim alone or swim only in areas where there is a lifeguard on duty.

What Unexpected Hazards Do You Need To Be Aware Of?

  • Toilet bowls. Keep the toilet cover down and keep the bathroom door closed.
  • Buckets. Never leave a bucket of water unattended, even for a second. Always empty buckets after use.
  • Bathtubs and hot tubs. Don’t leave children alone in the tub, not even for a minute. Immediately drain the tub after bath time is over.
  • Fountains. Keep children away from fountains. If you have a fountain at home, make sure it is located in an inaccessible area to young children.

Final Water Safety Tips.

By following these drowning prevention tips, you can help keep your child safe from this silent killer.

Remember to never leave a child unsupervised around any body of water, big or small, and make sure they know how to swim and float.

Teach them about pool safety rules and what to do if they find themselves in trouble in the water.

We can all work together with vigilance and education to keep our children safe from drowning.

Let’s protect children by following most important water safety tips:

  • Never leave your child unattended around water, not even for a second.
  • If you are at the beach, stay in shallow water where you can still touch the ground.
  • Swim lessons save children’s lives.
  • Always wear life jackets when on a boat or near open water (see below)
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when around water.

We can all work together with vigilance and education to keep our children safe from drowning.