Safe and Healthy Swimming

View or print Safe Swimming Tip Card (pdf)

Children playing outdoors.

Stay safe while having fun in the water. Follow these important water safety tips to reduce the risk of injury and illness.

Tips for Safe Swimming

  • Always swim with others, never enter the water alone. Keep an eye on each other.
  • Always supervise your children around water.
    • Stay within arm’s reach of a small child.
    • Lifeguards do not replace the need for close supervision by a caregiver.
  • If you or your child has a medical condition such as a seizure disorder or heart condition, look out for symptoms that could put them at risk.
  • Non-swimmers should avoid water greater than chest deep – even the “shallow end” of a pool is over chest deep for most young children.
  • Learn basic swimming and water safety skills.
  • If using life jackets remember, they do not take the place of continuous and close adult supervision.
    • Use of life jackets and other floatation devices when swimming can give a false sense of security and lead to entering water deeper than one’s comfort level or swimming ability.
    • If you use one for swimming, choose a life jacket that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved (I-III label) and properly fitted.
    • Air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings and floats, should not be used in place of approved life jackets.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol while swimming. They slow reaction time and impair judgment.
  • Never dive into water less than 8-feet deep or of unknown depth or water conditions.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with rescue breathing, first aid, and calling 911 can save a life and minimize injury.
  • Check the weather forecast if swimming outside – avoid inclement weather, wear sunscreen, and be aware of extreme heat or fatigue.
  • Keep water safety in mind when boating and always follow safe boating practices, including wearing a life jacket.

Swimming and Your Health

  • Avoid swimming in water that is cloudy or discolored.
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming.
  • Wash your hands after swimming and playing in the sand, especially before eating.
  • Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  • Stay out of the water if you are sick with diarrhea.
  • Stay out of the water if you have an open cut or wound.
  • Learn more about healthy swimming from CDC.

Drowning Prevention

Drowning can occur anywhere there is water; from lakes and pools to bathtubs and buckets.

Drowning happens quickly and quietly. People often think that if someone is not calling for help that they are not drowning. Remember that when someone is drowning, they are trying to breathe, not speak. It may appear that the person is splashing or waving, but this may be an involuntary response to try to stay afloat. Progression from struggling to drowning can happen in as few as 20 seconds. Any delay in rescue can be fatal.

Who's at risk?

Each year, hundreds of people in New York State drown or are hospitalized for severe injuries. New York State Department of Health studies show kids and teens have the greatest risk of drowning.

What are the most common causes?


  • Lack of adult supervision around water, pools, bathtubs, and buckets of water. This is often at home – drowning can occur in as little as two inches of water.
  • Pools that do not have four-sided fencing that isolates a home swimming pool from the house.
  • Swimming alone or wandering into water.
  • Swimming in public areas where there are no lifeguards.
  • Not using approved life jackets while swimming and boating.
  • Everyone Else

  • For older children, teenagers, and adults, drowning occurs most often in natural bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and the ocean.
  • Drownings are often associated with boating and other water activities. Almost everyone that drowns while boating is not wearing a life jacket or other personal flotation device.
  • Almost half of the people who drown are alone in the water at the time of the incident.
  • Of people over age 14, almost half of drownings are associated with alcohol or drug use.
  • Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death for people with seizure disorders.

More Information