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Drowning is silent and can happen in less than a minute.
Sobering facts about drowning you might not know
Did you realize that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in children? In 2017, drowning claimed the lives of almost 1,000 children in the United States alone.
- Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in U.S. children ages 1 through 4 years old.
- Most infants drown in bathtubs or buckets.
- Most pre-school-aged children drown in swimming pools.
- Adolescents between 15 and 19 years old have the second highest fatal drowning rate.
- Most adolescents drown in natural water settings.
What parents need to know about drowning
Don’t leave your child alone near water
As a parent or caregiver, you should never – not even for a moment – leave young children alone or in the care of another child while in or near a bathtub, pool, spa or wading pool.
The same goes when children are near irrigation ditches, ponds or other open water.
Drowning risks at home
You need to be aware of drowning risks associated with the hazards found in any home.
- Infant bath seats can easily tip over, and children can slip out of them and drown – even in just a few inches of water. An adult should always be with an infant sitting in a bath seat in a bathtub.
- Water in containers, such as pails and buckets, should always be emptied immediately after use.
- Toilets are an often overlooked risk. To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks may be helpful.
- Bathrooms, swimming pools and open water can be very dangerous as well. Parents and caregivers must be diligent about preventing unsupervised access to these areas.
Swimming skills are important
Water competency is the ability to anticipate, avoid and survive common drowning situations.
Evidence shows that children 1 and older can benefit from swim lessons.
But – swim lessons are not a guarantee of safety. They should be considered just one “layer of protection” among many (read more below) against drowning.
As a parent or caregiver you also need to provide barriers to prevent unintended water access. And always closely supervise children around the water.
Other drowning prevention strategies
Along with swimming skills, multiple additional layers of protection should be used to prevent drowning.
Four-sided fencing (at least 4 feet tall) with self-closing and self-latching gates is the best researched and most effective drowning-prevention strategy for young children.
Fencing completely isolates the pool from your house and yard.
When used properly, life jackets are well-proven to prevent drowning fatalities.
Adequate supervision must be close, constant and attentive – this is essential for preventing drowning!
For beginning swimmers, “Touch Supervision,” where a supervising adult is within arm’s reach of the child, is the best method.
The Haddon Matrix
Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Haddon Matrix outlines effective drowning prevention strategies.
Bold indicates the most evidence-based interventions.
|Timing||Personal||Equipment||Physical Environment||Social Environment|
|Before the event||Provide close, constant and attentive supervision of children and poor swimmers||Install 4-sided fencing that isolates the pool from the house and yard||Swim where lifeguards are present||Mandate 4-sided residential pool fencing|
|Before the event||Clear handoff supervision responsibilities||Install self-closing and latching gates||Attend to warning signage||Mandate life jacket wear|
|Before the event||Develop water competency, including water-safety knowledge, basic swim skills and the ability to recognize and respond to a swimmer in trouble||Wear life jackets||Swim at designated swim sites||Adopt the Model Aquatic Health Code*|
|Before the event||Evaluate preexisting health condition||Install compliant pool drains||Remove toys from pools when not in use to reduce temptation for children to enter||Increase availability of lifeguards|
|Before the event||Know how to choose and fit a life jacket||Install door locks||Empty water buckets and wading pools||Increase access to affordable and culturally compatible swim lessons|
|Before the event||Avoid substance use||Enclosures for open bodies of water||__||Close high-risk waters during high-risk times|
|Before the event||Know water hazards and conditions||Promote life jacket loaner programs||__||Develop designated open-water swim sites|
|Before the event||Swim at a designated swim site||Role model life jacket use by adults||__||Enforce boating under the influence of laws|
|Before the event||Learn CPR||Make rescue devices available at swim sites||__||__|
|Before the event||Take a boater education course||Phone access to call for help||__||__|
|Before the event||__||Ensure functional watercraft||__||__|
|Event||Water-survival skills||Rescue device available||__||EMS system|
|After the event||Early bystander CPR||AED||__||Advanced medical care|
|After the event||Bystander response||Rescue equipment||__||__|
*The Model Aquatic Health Code provides guidelines and standards for equipment, staffing and training, and monitoring swimming pools.
You can learn more about water safety and drowning prevention at our health library - Drowning Prevention