The weather is getting warmer and it will soon be pool season. As a mother of a toddler, this means that anxiety about pool safety becomes fresh in my mind. After all, drowning is the leading cause of death (aside from birth defects) in children aged 1-4. Statistically, children in this age range are most likely to drown in a swimming pool. So, what can parents do to help prevent tragedies like these? In this blog post, I’ll share 6 pool safety tips for pool drowning prevention in young children. Obviously, the greatest protection of all is constant adult supervision. The tips provided below are additional measures to help further reduce the risk for drowning in young children.
1. Have a Pool Fence
Research on drownings in children under age 4 shows that nearly 70% of the children drowned during non-swimming times, when they were not expected to be at or in the pool. In fact, 46% of the time, the child who drowned was last seen in the house. For this reason, it’s critical to install barriers around the pool to prevent children from gaining access to the pool unsupervised. Fences are the most proven and effective way to prevent drowning in young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a four-sided fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) can reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83% compared to a three-sided fence (around the property but not between the pool and house). The National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) recommends that pools have a fence at least 60” tall, with a self-closing, self-latching gate that opens away from the pool.
2. Install Alarms
To further prevent children from accessing the pool unsupervised, consider installing alarms on your home’s doors and windows so that you are alerted if your child gets outside unsupervised. There are also pool alarms that may help alert you if someone falls in the pool.
3. Assign a Designated Water Watcher
I think this one is SO important. I was surprised to learn that drowning is often silent. Drowning victims may not scream or splash loudly like you would think, so a child could drown unnoticed, even with multiple adults around tending to other children. Designate at least one person to be the “water watcher”. Whoever is on duty should not take their eyes off the water – no phones, books, etc.
4. Sign Up for Swimming Lessons
Teaching your child to swim is another tool to help prevent drowning. Research shows that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning in children ages 1 to 4. While swimming lessons can be helpful, it does not completely prevent drowning, so it should never replace adult supervision.
5. Don’t Rely on Flotation Devices (water wings, floaties, inner tubes, etc.)
Pool flotation devices like these can be fun, but they can also give both children and parents a false sense of security in the water. Children may become overly comfortable in the water and jump in without them. Or parents may feel that they don’t need to pay as close attention when their child has the floaties on. Even with flotation devices, it is still recommended that parents provide “touch supervision”, being close enough to reach the child at all times.
6. Learn CPR
Parents should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to help improve their child’s (or another child’s) chances of survival in case an accidental drowning occurs. The CDC reports that CPR performed by bystanders is shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. Every second counts and providing CPR while waiting for emergency services can be the difference between life and death.
I know this is a somber topic, but I wanted to write about it because drowning is preventable and the more you know, the better you can protect your little ones. Hopefully these tips will help give you some tangible ways to keep your children safe around swimming pools. Have a fun and safe summer!
For more information on pool safety and drowning prevention, check out the following links: