Water safety and drowning

Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, 2 are children aged 14 or younger.

Water Safety

Water safety tips for all ages include:

  • Learn CPR.
  • Always wear life preservers when boating, even if you can swim.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Never dive into water unless you know beforehand how deep it is.
  • Know your limits. Do not over-exert yourself.
  • Wear lifejackets or approved flotation devices when you are on a boat.
  • Stay out of strong currents.
  • Do not overload your boat. If your boat turns over, stay with the boat until help arrives.

Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children around water.

When boating, know local weather conditions and forecasts. Learn about and watch for dangerous waves or rip currents.

Children and Water Safety

Put a fence around all home swimming pools, and keep the gate closed and locked.

  • The fence should completely separate the yard and house.
  • It should be at least 4 feet high and have a self-closing latch that is out of the reach of children.

When leaving the pool, clear the pool and deck of all toys in the area. This removes temptation for children to enter the pool area.

At least one responsible adult should supervise younger children when they swim or play in or around water. You should be close enough to reach a child at all times.

  • This adult should not be reading, talking on a phone, or doing other activities.
  • Never leave young children unattended, even for a minute, in a bathtub, wading pool, swimming pool, lake, ocean, or stream.

Teach your children to swim, but do not assume that this alone will prevent young children from drowning. Air-filled or foam toys (wings, noodles, inner-tubes) are not a replacement for lifejackets when boating or your child is out in open water.

Prevent drowning around the home:

  • All buckets, wading pools, ice chests, and other containers should be emptied right after use and stored upside down.
  • Keep toilet lids closed, and use toilet seat locks until children are around 3 years old.
  • Keep doors to your laundry room and bathrooms closed at all times, and consider an out-of-reach latch on the door.
  • Be aware of irrigation ditches and other areas of water drainage around your home, and do not leave your child unattended.

See also: Bathroom safety - children


Shephard E, Quan L. Drowning and submersion injury. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 67.

Unintentional drowning: Fact Sheet. CDC. Last updated May 16, 2011. Viewed September 1, 2011.

Update Date: 9/26/2011

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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