Water, water everywhere: How to reduce your child’s risk of drowning

Although summer swimming season is upon us, drowning is a risk in any weather. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 or younger, with children from 1 to 4 having the highest drowning rates. Water-related accidents don’t just happen around the pool: They can occur even inside your house.

Drownings can be fatal, or near fatal. A common location in the house in a bathtub. It is important to observe children continuously around water.

How to reduce your child’s risk of drowning

Keep Watch: While giving your child a bath, ensure he or she is getting your full focus. Distractions like checking your phone or going down the hall to grab a towel can leave a child at risk. Babes can drown in just an inch or two of water.

Go Beyond the Tub: Keep toilet lids closed and use seat locks. Close bathroom and laundry room doors if unoccupied. Wading pools or buckets that contain even a small amount of liquid should be emptied and put away. If you have a water feature in your yard, such as a koi pond, consider putting up a barrier around it; if you have a pool, install a four-foot or taller fence with latches out of your child’s reach.

Establish Proper Water Safety: Remove toys from the pool so children aren’t tempted to enter the area without supervision. Toys such as water wings, noodles and inner tubes are designed for fun, not safety — use a life jacket instead.

Get Educated: Research has shown that participating in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning. If you don’t know how to swim yourself, it’s not too late to learn. Parents should also learn CPR; the sooner CPR is performed, the better the chance of your child recovering from a drowning event.

Parents shouldn’t think they think they’ll be alerted by splashes or sounds of distress. Drownings can be quiet, especially if associated with head or neck injuries. Parent and child education , surveillance, and proper training in CPR are the hallmark of preventing injuries such as drowning.

For more information on preventing drowning and other accidental injuries, contact your pediatrician or call the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Safety Center: 503-418-5666.

David Spiro, M.D.
Medical Director
Pediatric Emergency Department
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital






One response to “Water, water everywhere: How to reduce your child’s risk of drowning

  1. This is one of the scariest topics I know of. Parents must be vigilant. It’s the cities where I see the most problem, since many children don’t have many opportunities to learn how to swim well.

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