Drowning prevention: Water safety tips you should know

Posted 7/3/24

Understanding, teaching and modeling water safety, especially to young children, can reduce the potential...

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Drowning prevention: Water safety tips you should know


Living in the Sunshine State, we enjoy water sports and fun activities almost year-round. Unfortunately, fun in the water does come with risks. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second cause of unintentional injury death for children 5 to 14 years old. Drowning can happen to anyone, at any time and at any age.

Understanding, teaching and modeling water safety, especially to young children, can reduce the potential for drowning incidents.

The number one rule children should know, remember and follow is never to go near water without adult supervision. This includes pools, hot tubs, natural water and even the bathtub. Drowning can happen quickly and silently (even in water less than 1 to 2 inches deep) making the constant vigilance of adults essential to safety. Specify which adults will watch each child when near or in the water. One adult should not be responsible for a group of children. Those designated as “water watchers” should avoid distractions like cell phones, reading and consuming alcohol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children and adults learn to swim and learn water safety skills. For children under the age of 4, this could depend on their stage of development. Water-safety skills can be introduced to all ages, including infants. Local community pools offer swimming lessons, as well as organizations like the YMCA and the American Red Cross.

Life jackets are crucial for children – and weak swimmers – when playing in natural bodies of water like lakes, rivers and the ocean. Life jackets are required for children and adults when boating. This life-saving gear provides buoyancy, helping keep a child’s head above water and significantly reducing the risk of drowning. Water wings, inflatable toys and other flotation devices are not adequate replacements for lifejacket safety.

Ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans pose additional hazards like currents, rocks, vegetation and animals. Model good water safety by always wearing a lifejacket, no matter your age. About 40 percent of drowning deaths for children ages 5 to 14 happen in natural water, as do over half of both fatal and non-fatal drownings for people over 15.

Even the color of swimsuits matters for safety; opt for yellow, orange, pink or red. A recent study found that swimsuit color can make a difference in drowning prevention, enhancing visibility in the water, and aiding in quicker rescue, if necessary. Swimsuits that are light blue, gray, white or green are like camouflage in the water.

Teach your children what to do in case of a drowning emergency. This includes how and when to call 9-1-1 and finding an adult if they or someone else is in trouble. Certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, autism and cardiovascular conditions, can heighten the risk of drowning. Additionally, certain medications can impair balance and coordination, like some taken to treat anxiety and other mental health issues.

Many organizations offer CPR training, such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, as well as local groups like police departments, fire departments or hospitals. It is important to know that the steps for performing CPR are different for adults, children, infants and even pets! The American Red Cross provides step-by-step instructions for you to follow and practice so you are prepared in an emergency.

Drowning prevention requires a multi-layered approach of education, supervision and proactive safety. Teaching children essential water safety skills and practicing them yourself can reduce the risk of drowning and ensure that everyone has a safe and fun experience in the water.

water, safety, swimming, swim, drowning, CPR