Summer is just around the corner, which means that many of us are thinking about heading to the pool or the beach soon. But did you know that drowning remains one of the leading causes of preventable deaths for children in the U.S., with nearly 800 deaths each year? We’ve created this guide to swimming safety to help make the water a safe place for you and your kids to play.

Drowning prevention tips differ with age, but infants and preschoolers are at the highest risk:

  • 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.
  • Toddlers (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.

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.


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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