Poolside Protection

The CDC reports that drowning is the #1 cause of injury death in children from ages 1-14. Three children drown every day! Many of children who have drowned knew how to swim. Most were in the care of one or both parents or other responsible adult. Do not assume this cannot happen to your children. Instead, learn what you need to do to prevent this tragedy.

Drowning can occur in less than 1” of water, so anything that holds water can be a danger. Even sinks and buckets. It is important to take precautions to protect children around water and to teach them water safety.

Block Access

  • Use self-closing, self-latching fences and gates that are 4’ or taller with gaps less than 4” so children cannot squeeze through. Avoid fences that can be easy to climb, such as chain link.
  • Use rigid, motorized covers to prevent access to the water when not in use.
  • Install alarms that will sound when someone gains access to the pool area and a pool alarm that will alert you if a child falls into an unsupervised pool. Consider also a wristwatch-style water alarm as a backup to these other types of alarms.
  • Keep watch over children at all times when playing in or near a pool, bathtub, or other body of water. Drowning can occur quickly, so always have one or two dedicated, undistracted, and sober “watchers” keeping an eye on the children enjoying the water. Hosting a pool party? Hire a lifeguard.
  • Make sure an adult is always within touch distance of a child who is not yet a proficient swimmer.
  • Keep small children out of the bathroom unless they are supervised. Keep toilet lids closed, and consider installing childproof locks to prevent small children from opening the lid.

Practice Water Safety

  • Teach swimming and water safety around age 4. But do not rely on this as a sole source of protection: many children who have drowned knew how to swim.
  • All swimmers should wear a life vest in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans. Young swimmers may also need a life jacket in the pool.
  • Do not rely on flotation devices. These are not designed as life saving devices.
  • Remove toys and floatation devices from the pool when not in use to reduce temptation for children. Lock them away out of sight.
  • Keep children away from pool and hot tub drains to prevent hair, clothing, or body parts from getting sucked in.

Prepare For An Emergency

  • Supervising adults and teens need to be trained and certified in first aid and CPR.
  • Keep a phone nearby, and check to make sure it has a strong signal and a full battery.
  • Also have reach tools (i.e. shepherd’s hook) approved by the Coast Guard readily available in case of emergency.

Water can be a great way for children to keep cool, have fun, and get exercise. Taking a few extra steps to ensure it stays safe can keep this summer fun from becoming the tragedy of a lifetime.


References and additional reading:

Casey, J. (n.d.). New Pool Safety Gadgets Help Prevent Drowning. Retrieved from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/children/features/new-pool-safety-gadgets-help-prevent-drowning

Committee on Injury, V. a. (Ed.). (2010, July). Prevention of Drowning. (A. A. Pediatrics, Producer) Retrieved from AAP Gateway: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/1/178

Drowning Prevention. (2016, April 30). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/drowning/

Gavin, M. L. (2013, August). Household Safety: Preventing Drowning. Retrieved from KidsHealth: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safety-drowning.html#

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, April 8). Water safety: Protect your child from drowning. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/child-safety/art-20044744