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Child Safety: Preventing Drowning

Topic Overview

An infant or young child can drown in as little as 2.5 cm (1 in.) of water or other liquid.

Deal with water hazards

The following recommendations can help you protect your child from drowning hazards:2

  • Don't leave babies and young children alone in the bathtub or a swimming or wading pool. If a baby slips or rolls and lands face down, he or she may not be able to turn over. Bathing seats or flotation devices may be used, but they don't protect against drowning and aren't a substitute for your attention.
  • Don't leave babies and young children alone around filled buckets, such as 5-gallon buckets used for cleaning. Empty buckets after each use, and keep them out of children's reach. Buckets have tall, straight sides, which make it very hard for infants and young children to escape if they have fallen in.
  • Leave toilet lids down. Keep young children out of the bathroom without your direct supervision. Make sure your toddler knows that the toilet isn't a toy. Toilets are drowning hazards, especially for children younger than 3. An older baby or young child can fall headfirst into the water and not be able to climb back out. Consider placing a latch on the bathroom door, out of reach of young children.
  • Empty all liquid containers immediately after use. Keep all empty containers out of reach of young children and babies. Don't leave empty containers in the yard or around the house. They can accumulate water and become a drowning hazard.
  • Empty coolers immediately after use, and keep lids closed. Store out of children's reach.
  • Watch children closely outdoors, especially where wells, open postholes, and irrigation or drainage ditches are nearby. Fill holes and install fences or other barriers to protect your child. Make sure pools are fenced off and have covers that lock. Don't let a child out of your sight while you are doing yard work or other outdoor activities.
  • Never let your child swim in any fast-moving water.

Teach swimming safety

Children need to learn to swim. You can help prevent drowning incidents by teaching your children basic safety rules and swimming skills.

The following are suggestions to help you prepare your child for water-related activities:

  • Teach your children four key swimming rules:3
    1. Always swim with a buddy.
    2. Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first.
    3. Don't push or jump on others while in the water.
    4. Be prepared for an emergency. Instruct children on getting help from an adult or calling 911.
  • Don't let your child use inflatable swimming aids (such as "water wings") without constant supervision. They can deflate, or a child can slip out of them. Also, children can develop habits using these devices that can put them at risk for drowning. For example, a child who frequently uses water wings may learn to jump into a pool on impulse. He or she may do so while not wearing the devices, before having a chance to think about it.
  • As a parent, learn to swim if you don't already know how. Also, learn swimming survival and rescue techniques.
  • If you enroll your child in swim lessons, remember that swim lessons won't necessarily prevent drowning. Swim lessons may give you and your child a false sense of security and make you both less cautious around water. Be sure that your child swims only when a watchful adult is present.1, 4
  • When visiting public or private pools, make sure that your children are supervised closely and that they are familiar with pool safety rules.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canada Safety Council
1020 Thomas Spratt Place
Ottawa, ON  K1G 5L5
Phone: (613) 739-1535
Fax: (613) 739-1566
Email: canadasafetycouncil@safety-council.org
Web Address: www.safety-council.org
 

The Canada Safety Council is a national, non-government, charitable organization dedicated to safety and to helping reduce preventable deaths, injuries, and economic loss in public and private places throughout Canada. The CSC provides resources for safety information, education, and awareness in all aspects of Canadian life—in traffic, at home, at work, and at leisure. The CSC Web site offers a wide variety of safety-related information and education materials for the general public.



Canadian Paediatric Society: Caring for Kids
2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard
Ottawa, ON K1G 4J8
Phone: (613) 526-9397
Fax: (613) 526-3332
Email: info@cps.ca
Web Address: www.caringforkids.cps.ca
 

The Caring for Kids website was developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society and provides parents with information about child health and well-being.



Health Canada: Kids' Health and Safety
Address Locator 0900C2
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9
Fax: (613) 941-5366
TDD: 1-800-267-1245
Email: Info@hc-sc.gc.ca
Web Address: www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/init/kids-enfants/index-eng.php
 

Health Canada's Kids' Health and Safety webpage provides information to help you make informed choices about your child's health and safety. On this webpage, you can find information about healthy eating, immunizations, physical activity, injury prevention, and toy safety.



U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
TDD: 1-888-232-6348
Email: healthyswimming@cdc.gov
Web Address: www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming
 

The U.S. CDC Healthy Swimming website provides tips and fact sheets to help people reduce the chances of getting an illness from swimming in recreational waters such as lakes, rivers, swimming pools, and oceans. U.S. CDC's Healthy Swimming program also provides resources to raise awareness about recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and how to prevent them by practicing "Healthy Swimming" behaviors.



References

Citations

  1. Nguyen BH, et al. (2003, reaffirmed 2008). Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers. Paediatrics and Child Health, 8(2): 113–114. Available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/IP/IP03-01.htm.
  2. Consumer Product Safety Commission (2012). Prevent child in-home drowning deaths. CPSC Document No. 5013. Available online:
  3. National Safety Council (2009). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/resources/documents/water_safety.pdf.
  4. Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics, 126(1): 178–185.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (2011). Water safety and young children. Available online:
  • Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Policy statement: Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics, 126(1): 178–185.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised January 9, 2013
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