Drowning Prevention & Water Safety, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years

What are the leading causes of drowning in children?

  • Lack of adult supervision around water, pools, bathtubs, and buckets/pails of water.
  • Pools that do not have four-sided fencing that isolates a home swimming pool from the house.
  • Children swimming alone or children wandering into water.
  • Swimming in public areas where there are no lifeguards.
  • Not using approved life jackets while swimming and boating.

Are there any laws about swimming pools that I should know about?

New York State law requires all public swimming pools built after March 30, 1998, to be enclosed within a fence or other barrier which is at least four feet high and can be entered by bathers only through self closing and positive self-latching doors or gates.

What can I do to keep my child safe around water and prevent drowning?

  • Always supervise young children while in a bathtub. Never leave younger children alone around water in the care of older siblings. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water.
  • Make sure that toilet seat covers are left down and pails or buckets of water are emptied as soon as possible and not left unattended.
  • Children and teens should not engage in risk taking behavior, like rough play while swimming or boating. These activities lead to many drowning or near drowning injuries.
  • Make sure your child is aware that open waters, such as lakes, rivers and oceans have currents, rocks and uneven surfaces, which may be unfamiliar and pose hazards to swimmers.
  • Make sure your child never swims alone, especially in unfamiliar water.
  • Teach your child how to swim. Not being able to swim (or overestimating swimming abilities) may lead to injuries. However, knowing how to swim alone does not prevent drowning.
  • If your child has a medical condition, such as a seizure disorder or heart condition, make sure he or she takes special care when swimming. Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death for persons with seizures.
  • Water temperature is an important factor that contributes to drowning as cold water can lead to hypothermia, or lowered body temperature.

What are some other safety tips that I should be aware of besides close adult supervision?

  • The use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and calling 911 can save a life and minimize injury. The use of the Heimlich Maneuver (abdominal thrusts) is not recommended for use with potential drowning victims as a first line therapy; it may delay the onset of CPR and may induce vomiting and choking on stomach contents.
  • Personal floatation devices (life jackets) should be approved and should not take the place of adult supervision. Air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings and floats, should not to be used in place of approved personal floatation devices.
  • Pool alarms and pool covers should not be used in place of a four-sided fence because they are not likely to be used appropriately and consistently. Some types of pool covers present an additional hazard for young children. A young child could be trapped under non-rigid pool covers or try to walk on the pool surface and fall into the pool.

Where can I find more information on water safety and drowning prevention?