More kids spend time playing around water in the summer than any other season of the year. It’s a great way to cool off and have fun, but water can also be dangerous.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4—so be sure to take the proper precautions to reduce the risk.

Supervision is key to safety
Pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw reminds families to pay extra attention to safety around any body of water, starting with supervision. “Unfortunately, drowning is not one of the movie events where you hear splashing, and you hear screaming,” she says. “It is a silent event most of the time. When a kid slips under the water’s surface, they’re gone and if you’re not there watching and within arm’s reach of your child, you may lose them.”

Here are some preventive steps you can take to help ensure your child’s safety:

  • Be sure kids are wearing proper-fitting, coast guard-approved life vests.
  • Don’t rely on inflatable swimming aids like floaties. They can give both children and parents a false sense of security.
  • If you have a backyard pool, it’s recommended you have a latched, unclimbable fence around it that’s at least 4 feet in height.
  • Beware of standing water. Just a couple inches in a bucket, a bathtub or a toilet can present a significant drowning hazard to young children. Empty containers of water immediately after use and don’t allow toddlers to have unsupervised access to a bathroom.
  • Never assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning, even with older kids like teenagers. Safety specifics for teens include continued supervision and avoiding risky behavior like mixing alcohol with water recreation.

Dangers of rivers, lakes
Oregon is blessed with many beautiful rivers and lakes, but they can be more dangerous than people realize, Dr. Bradshaw says.

“You really have to have people aware of the dangers of the water and make sure they have all the equipment and training to be safe near the water.”

Dr. Bradshaw also urges kids and teens to avoid the dangers of jumping into pools of water. “Jumping off of rocks and bridges into bodies of water is dangerous,” she says. “Kids die every year at popular holes where people jump in from nature into the water and it’s just not safe.”

If your child is going to a friend’s house to play, Dr. Bradshaw suggests asking if they have a swimming pool. If so, be sure to find out if an adult will be supervising the kids the entire time they are playing in the pool.