Safer Summer Fun In & Around Water

Safer Summer Fun In & Around Water

Drowning is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in children. Children ages 1-4 are more likely to drown in a pool, while older children are likely to drown in open bodies of water. Education is imperative to keep our children safe in and around water.

Infants & Toddlers

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 1-4 have swimming lessons if they are developmentally ready. If you have determined that your child is ready for swim lessons, be sure that the class you choose adheres to the national YMCA guidelines.

Even though your child may know how to swim, there must be a CPR-trained adult supervising them when they are in the water. This adult’s sole responsibility is to observe children who are in the water. They should not have distractions such as talking on a phone or consuming alcohol.

If you or your family owns a pool, the best way to keep your child safe is by installing a four-foot high fence that completely surrounds the pool. This includes inflatable, above ground pools. The fence should have a self-closing, self-latching gate that opens away from the pool (this prevents a child from leaning on the gate and it opening toward the pool and falling in the water). Although many people use back door alarms or pool covers as their safety mechanism, studies have shown that these are not the most effective way to keep a child safe.

Also, do not forget to remove any toys from the pool as these may tempt the little one to get in the water. If you are using a baby pool or an inflatable pool, make sure to empty the pool of water and turn it upside down so the water cannot accumulate. Remember, a child can drown in an inch of water.

Older Children

As for older children, make sure they know the buddy system.

Even if they are able to swim well, if they get in a body of water, there should always be another person present in case of an emergency, preferably someone who knows CPR.

Educate children on the risk of diving into a body of water with an unknown depth; this poses a risk of becoming paralyzed.

If you are going to a beach, discuss rip currents and advise them to swim parallel to the shore until they are able to get out of the current. Any child who is on a boat should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. It is not recommended to use water wings, air mattresses, inflatable toys or rafts as a flotation device.

Dry Drowning

I often get questions from parents about “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning.”

These terms are not regularly used by medical personnel but have been used by sources on social media to describe certain types of submersion injuries. Rest assured, submersion injuries are rare; however, if your child has to be pulled from the water after being submerged, or if the child develops any shortness of breath, persistent cough, excessive fatigue or vomiting after getting out of a body of water, it is recommended to have your child evaluated by medical personnel.

If you have additional questions about water safety, don’t hesitate to ask your child’s pediatrician or visit one of these online resources:, Life Jackets and Life Preservers, Swimming Pool Safety, Drowning Prevention

American Red Cross, Life Jackets Aren’t Just for Boats


Susanna Kapourales, MD

Dr. Kapourales is a pediatrician at Marshall Health and an assistant professor of the department of pediatrics at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.