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Tips for keeping your kids safe around water

A cool dip in the pool on a hot summer day is fun for the whole family. Let’s make sure it’s safe too. Whether you visit your neighborhood pool every day or will be taking a road trip to the beach, it’s important to keep basic water safety in mind.

Kids swimming

The #1 rule of water safety

Never leave children alone in or near a bathtub, pool or any body of water. Not even for a quick moment.

Many parents don’t realize that drowning is a leading cause of death among children, including infants and toddlers. It is important to know that children can drown in even one inch of water - even in a bathtub.

Children should always be closely supervised when near water. If you have children under five, take that supervision a step closer. An adult - preferably one who knows how to swim - should always be within arm’s length of any child under five years old. A few other rules that should be followed when in or near any body of water:

  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security.
  • Never swim alone. Even good swimmers need buddies!
  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool, hot tub or lake first.
  • Make sure your child knows never to dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has checked for underwater objects.

Open water safety 

Children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats, docks or near bodies of water. Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child - they are sized based on weight. The jacket should not be loose and should always be worn as instructed with all straps belted. Blow-up water wings, toys, rafts and air mattresses should not be used as life jackets or personal flotation devices.

Pool safety 

Pools are attractive to kids. If you have a pool there are steps you should take to make that pool as safe as possible:

  • Install a non-climbable fence at least four feet high around the pool. The fence should have self-closing and self-latching gates with latches above a child’s reach (54 inches high). 
  • Make sure you don’t have any tables, chairs, planters or anything that a child could climb on near the fence. 
  • Install alarms on house doors and windows so you know if anyone goes outside. 
  • Lock all doors, windows and gates leading to the pool or hot tub area when not in use. 
  • Drain standing water from pool covers. 
  • Never leave toys in or around the pool area.

Recognize the signs of drowning

When a person is drowning they are rarely thrashing about loudly in the water. Drowning is quick and silent. It is important to know the signs that may signal that a child or adult is in danger of drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs — vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

What to do in a drowning emergency

According to the Red Cross, a person who is drowning has the greatest chance of survival if these steps are followed:

  1. Know the signs, recognize when someone is in trouble and shout for help. 
  2. Rescue and remove the person from the water.
  3. If someone else is present have them call 911. If you are alone, you should only stop to call 911 if the person is breathing on their own. 
  4. If the person is not breathing, begin rescue breathing and CPR. 

The benefits of swimming lessons

One of the best ways to be safe around water is to learn how to swim. Formal swim instruction has been shown to reduce the risk of drowning in children over the age of one year old. Swim lessons also help children become more comfortable in the water. Look for classes that meet children at their level - letting them adjust to the water at their own pace. A good swim program will also teach basic water safety skills and be fun for kids.

Keeping your child safe 

Your child’s safety is important to us. We’ve compiled helpful resources for common safety issues such as car seats, first aid guidelines and choking. Become familiar with our health resources so you know what to do in an emergency.

Take the Pledge and get a free Pool Safely Toolkit

Check out our app NP PEDS MD for further information and home care advice.

Baby girl with pony tail in white