Water Safety, Drowning Prevention Basics for Swim Season

About ten people die from unintentional drowning every day—of them; two are children age 14 or younger. Water safety matters all year long, but there’s no denying that pool time and beach time become more popular when summer nears. Help make it a safer, scare-free season of outdoor swimming by revisiting some basic water safety tips—and be sure to share them with the children in your life.

Supervise Water Time

Whether it be in the bathtub, at the beach or at the swimming pool, keep an undistracted eye on kids when they are in or near water—and teach kids to ask before they enter or go near the water, no matter how familiar they are with the setting. Children should always swim with adult supervision and never head into the water alone. The CDC recommends “touch supervision” for kids of preschool age, meaning an adult should deb close enough to reach the child at all times.2

Teach Kids to Swim

Inability to swim is a common cause of drowning. Though learning how will not necessarily prevent all drownings, it is a skill that can help reduce the risk. Enroll kids in formal lessons when they are ready; the American Association of Pediatrics recommends waiting until after a child’s fourth birthday.3 However, you may begin to familiarize children with water as young as six months old.4 Check out Teach Your Child to Swim from Parents Magazine to learn more about age-appropriate water activities throughout childhood.

Heed Warnings

Pay attention to signs posted near bodies of water and beaches, and know the meaning of colored beach warning flags. Obey these postings and warnings, and educate children about them. Always swim in designated areas.

Purchase Properly Fitting Life Jackets

When on a boat, everyone should wear, not simply carry, a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket—one that fits properly. Furthermore, the American Red Cross recommends that young children and inexperienced swimmers wear them around water. Read the U.S. Coast Guard’s brochure How to Choose the Right Life Jacket to learn how to select the right life jacket.

Remember: Arm floaties, pool noodles and other water toys are not lifejacket replacements, and lifejackets are not a substitute for supervision.

Secure Home Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs

If you have a home swimming pool or hot tub, make sure they are properly secured. Also keep a phone and safety equipment, including a safety ring and rope, as well as a first aid kit. Keep pool decks clear of clutter and discourage running. See the Red Cross’ Home Pool and Hot Tub Maintenance and Safety handout to learn more.

Learn CPR, be Prepared for Emergencies

Quick, calm action can save lives. Learn what to do if a child—or an adult, for that matter—is drowning and how to perform CPR until paramedics arrive. The Red Cross offers home pool safety, water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses that can teach you how to prevent and respond to various emergencies—visit RedCross.org to find training and certification courses near you. For a brief overview of first aid for drowning, read WebMD’s article Drowning Treatment and First Aid for Drowning from Parents Magazine.