Q&A: Drowning Prevention

While summer is quickly coming to a close, many local pools are slated to stay open until Labor Day, which allows for the swimming fun to continue. With National Drowning Prevention Day having just passed, Urgent Care for Children took a deeper dive into what you need to know when it comes to keeping your kiddo safe in and around water. We consulted the experts and have the answers to your top questions about water safety and drowning prevention.

What should I know about drowning?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends multiple layers of protection in order to prevent drowning. Drowning can be quick and silent and can happen even in shallow water. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in U.S. children ages one to four, and the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children and teens ages five through 19 according to the AAP.

What are some of the most common drowning or distress warning signs?
It is important to know that not all drowning emergencies look alike. Additionally, due to a lack of oxygen drowning is oftentimes silent. Common warning signs you should be aware of are:

  • Gasping or hyperventilating
  • Flailing arms
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Head low in the water with the mouth at or below water level
  • Eyes open wide or tightly shut

When should I consider swim lessons for my child?
It is recommended that swim lessons start as early as age one, understanding that swimming skills are important but are not the only factor in drowning prevention. There always needs to be close and constant attention with adult supervision when children are in and around water.

What other preventative actions can I take to keep my child safe around water?
In order to prevent unsupervised access to water, the recommendation is to have four-sided pool fencing at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates that completely isolates the pool from the house and yard. This extra layer of security makes it harder for children to wander into areas where they would have access to water without an adult watching.

Designate a “water watcher.” This is an adult to stay within arm’s reach of children in the water at all times during pool days or swim time. This is important to remember when in the home as well because infants can drown in shallow water in the bathtub. Children should never be left alone in the bathtub, not even for just a few seconds. Be sure to install latches on toilets in homes with infants and curious toddlers.

It is imperative for parents and caregivers to know and learn basic CPR and how to get emergency help. You can find classes with infant-specific training through the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, and local fire departments, park districts and other organizations.