Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-4, and it’s estimated that 88% of all child drownings occur when at least one adult is present. That’s why it’s essential to take precautions every time your kids are in or near the water.

“Drowning can happen in a heartbeat. It’s wrenching to know that in a matter of seconds your life can change,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

Dr. Bradshaw reminds families to pay extra attention around any body of water, especially in crowded places, like public pools.

“You really should, especially with younger kids, be within an arms-grab distance of being able to get them out of the water, because the lifeguards are supervising hundreds of kids and may not spot them if they get into trouble.”

Water safety tips for parents

  • Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a life.
  • If you have a home pool, install a fence that surrounds all sides, and is at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
  • Have kids wear life jackets.
  • Beware of standing water, especially if you have young children.

“Little kids have a low center of gravity and a heavy upper half, because their head is so large,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “So, any body of water—even just a couple inches in a bucket, a bathtub or a toilet—can present a significant drowning hazard.”

Supervision is key

Never assume that a child who knows how to swim is not at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter their skill level. When your children are in or near the water, always designate an adult whose sole focus is to supervise them at all times.

Dr. Bradshaw says, “Do not be futzing with your phone, and make sure the person in charge is not drinking alcohol, because that numbs your alertness. Do not chitchat with a friend. You have to be focused on those kids, because their lives depend on it.”