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Stay Safe In and Out of the Water

  • Whether you live in a climate that's warm year-round or you mainly enjoy outdoor activities during the summer, swimming and water are likely to be a big part of family fun. But the importance of safety cannot be overstated.

    Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 2. It's the second leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 6, but people of any age can be at risk. In 2013, 3,391 people over all age groups drowned. (Injury Facts, 2016)

    While many are aware of the importance of safety around pools and at the beach, parents also need to supervise their children near bathtubs. Most drowning and near-drowning incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub. (Injury Facts, 2016)

    Water safety should be practiced with adults, as well. According to an American Red Cross survey, only 56% of adults who say they can swim are able to perform five critical water-safety skills that could save their lives. These skills include:

    • Floating or treading water for one minute without a flotation device
    • Stepping or jumping into water over your head and returning to the surface
    • Treading water or floating in a full circle and then finding a way out of the water
    • Exiting a pool without using a ladder
    • Swimming 25 yards without stopping

    Are you able to perform these activities? If not, it may be time to learn or practice these skills at your local YMCA or other swim program with certified swim instructors. If you are in the Great Lakes region, you can reach out to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project.

    Tips for Children and Adults

    For Children:

    • Always watch your child while he or she is bathing, swimming or around water
    • Gather everything needed (towel, bath toys, sunscreen) before the child enters the water; if you must leave the area, take the child with you
    • Empty all buckets, bathtubs and kiddie pools of water immediately after use and store them upside down and out of your child's reach
    • Do not allow your child to play or swim in canals or streams
    • Install a 5-foot-tall fence with self-closing gate latches around your pool or hot tub
    • Consider installing door alarms to alert adults when a child has unexpectedly opened a door leading to a pool or hot tub
    • Keep a phone and life preserver near the pool or hot tub in case of emergency
    • Use snug-fitting life jackets instead of floaties, but remember that a child can still drown with a lifejacket on if not carefully watched
    • Become certified in first aid and CPR
    • Find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child, but keep in mind that lessons do not make your child "drown-proof"


    For Adults:

    • Always swim with a buddy
    • Never swim if you have been drinking alcohol or have taken certain medications
    • Learn how to swim; find swimming lessons at the local YMCA or park district
    • When boating, wear a life jacket
    • Learn First Aid and CPR
    • Swim in designated areas with lifeguards

    Additional Resources:

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission leads the federal government campaign on drowning prevention. CPSC offers free resources for consumers, including those geared for children, parents, the pool industry, state and local governments, and advocates.

    You'll also find helpful information on the following websites:


'But I was Only Gone for a Moment ... '

Children can drown quickly and silently. This video from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission illustrates what can happen if a child is left alone in a bathtub - even for a moment.

Learn more at the CPSC Safety Information Center on In-home Drowning.

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    ​No matter where you live, no matter the time of year, it's important to always watch your child around water. Bathing, swimming, even buckets and toilets can present a safety hazard for young children.

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