Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death of children age 14 and under, taking the lives of nearly 900 children each year.
Most occur in swimming pools, but lakes, rivers and oceans can also be dangerous. Children playing in smaller bodies of water, such as wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, toilets, spas and hot tubs also must be supervised.
Water safety experts encourage parents to become "Water Watchers" this summer.
Although many parents are nearby when their children are in or around the water, most do not devote 100 percent of their attention to supervising playtime.
Recent research by Johnson & Johnson shows that 88 percent of children who drowned were under adult supervision and that parents are overconfident about their children's safety and abilities around water.
Although 94 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time - for example, talking, texting, eating, reading or taking care of another child.
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive near-drowning may have brain damage; after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.
Because drowning can occur silently and in a matter of seconds, at least one parent or adult should always be a completely focused "Water Watcher," dedicated to monitoring children playing in the water.
In addition to constant supervision, parents should also keep in mind the following water safety tips:
- Practice "touch supervision" by keeping children within reasonable reach at all times. It is especially vital to keep children in baby bath seats and rings within arm's reach. Because drownings often occur silently, "touch supervision" can save lives.
- Enroll your children in swimming lessons around age 4, but do not assume swimming lessons make your child "drownproof." There is no substitute for active supervision.
- Tell children never to run, push or jump on others around water.
- Eliminate all potential drowning hazards such as empty buckets, large containers and wading pools. Keep toilet lids shut and use toilet locks.
- Make sure children swim only in designated safe areas of rivers, lakes and oceans. Outfit children in a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal safety device around oceans, rivers, lakes or when participating in water sports. "Water wings" or inflatable tubes do not replace life jackets.
- Keep rescue equipment, a telephone and emergency numbers by the pool.
- Teach children to never dive into a river, lake, ocean or body of water less than nine feet deep.
- If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least 5 feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 percent to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
Additionally, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Lifesaving Association offer the following safety tips.
General Water Safety
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim. Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
- Swim in supervised areas only.
- Obey all rules and posted signs.
- Watch out for the dangerous too's - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Don't mix alcohol and swimming.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
- Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to emergencies.
Lakes and rivers
- Learn to swim. Sound familiar? It's that important.
- Select a supervised area. A trained lifeguard who can help in an emergency is the best safety factor. Even good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergency in the water.
- Select an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs, and aquatic plant life are hazards.
- Strong tides, big waves, and currents can turn an event that began as fun into a tragedy.
- Avoid drainage ditches and arroyos. Drainage ditches and arroyos for water run-off are not good places for swimming or playing in the water. After heavy rains, they can quickly change into raging rivers that can easily take a human life. Even the strongest swimmers are no match for the power of the water.
- Learn to swim. Yes, again.
- Never leave a child unobserved around water. Your eyes must be on the child at all times. Adult supervision is recommended.
- Post CPR instructions and your local emergency number in the pool area.
- Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the pool and know how to use it. Pole, rope, and personal flotation devices (PFDs) are recommended.
- Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.
- Pool covers should always be completely removed prior to pool use.
Stay safe this summer.