Nothing sounds more refreshing on a hot summer day than a dip in the pool. With all of that sunny fun, though, comes responsibility for parents to keep their kids safe while swimming in the cool waters. Drowning prevention tips for kids differ with age, but in general, it’s important watch your kids and make sure you teach them about swimming safety.

The risk of drowning increases in the summer with the increased use of pools and many parents may be surprised to learn that a drowning child may not scream “Help!” or flail their arms when they are in danger.

“It’s generally a silent process,” said Joanna Cohen, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s National Health System. “Parents need to watch their kids closely as they swim and make sure they are coming up for air.”

Daniel Fagbuyi, MD, adds another rule: “If you can’t reach out and touch your child, they are too far.”

How to prevent an infant from drowning

Infants (up to 1 year) can drown in just one inch of water. Most infant drownings occur in bathtubs.

  • Never leave a young child alone in the bathtub, not even for a minute. Even supportive bathtub “rings” cannot keep your child from drowning.
  • Empty any buckets or other containers with liquids. Keep bathroom doors closed and install childproof devices to keep your child out of the bathroom (such as doorknob covers).
  • Keep toilets closed and/or use childproof toilet locks.

How to prevent a preschooler from drowning

Preschoolers (1 – 5 years old) are at the highest risk for drowning in swimming pools.

  • Watch preschoolers closely as they often wander away without parents being aware of their absence.
  • Preschoolers can also easily slip into swimming pools without a sound.

Preventing kids from drowning

For all other ages, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests these guidelines:

  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Have a telephone close by when you or your family are using a pool or spa.
  • Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.
  • Teach your child basic water safety tips.
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  • Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly.
  • Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joanna Cohen Joanna Cohen, MD, is an attending in the emergency department (ED) at Children's National Health System. Her primary research interest includes bedside ultrasonography in the ED.

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