Drowning Prevention for Curious Toddlers
Water is fascinating for toddlers. It shines, ripples, splashes, and can even make things float. But that same water can be dangerous if they do not understand the danger of it. Whether at home or visiting friends and family, parents must be aware of where their children are in relation to water hazards like swimming pools and fountains. Drowning is a leading cause of death for children. In the United States: More children ages 1–4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except congenital disabilities. For children ages 1–14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.
The toddler years = higher drowning risk than any other time
The toddler years are an exciting time, but they can also be scary. But do not worry water safety is important for all ages, especially for toddlers. If a child cannot swim unaided, they should always be supervised by an adult.
The biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected, unsupervised access to water: While swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas are fun for families with older babies and toddlers, they pose a serious risk of drowning. These water hazards must be supervised at all times by an adult who keeps their focus on the child.
Create layers of protection to keep your toddler safe
Keeping your child safe at the pool or beach can be a challenge! Swimming is great fun for kids of all ages, but there are some simple things you can do to help keep them safe. Creating layers of protection is an easy way to keep your child out of harm’s way.
You cannot supervise a child every second of the day and you may need to re-focus your attention momentarily. That is why layers of protection are designed to help keep your child safe around water. When children are not expected to be around water, barriers can help prevent tragedies during these unavoidable moments when you may need to re-focus your attention.
Check for water dangers at home and where you visit
To keep your toddler safe, it is important to take a moment to check water safety in and around your home. A few simple steps can help protect your child from potential water dangers and prevent inadvertent, unsupervised access to water. By creating layers of protection in and around your home, you will help make sure your toddler is safer on all sides.
- Fence and secure swimming pools
In the pool, a fence can still be an effective barrier. A fence surrounding the pool should be at least four-sided and at least as high as the highest diving board if there is one. The gate should be self-closing and self-latching with a lock that makes it hard to open from outside the gate.
A pool gate that meets the safety requirements must be at least 4 feet high and have no opening under it or between slats that are more than 4 inches wide. It must have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool, with the latch on top at least 54 inches above ground level.
The fence gate should always be always locked when a child is in the pool area. Check that you have a working gate lock regularly. Toys should not be left lying around the pool area, as this could lead to children trying to squeeze through the gate when it is open. Also, keep hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools covered up when not in use so that children do not try to get in them.
- Remove or fence other backyard water hazards
Birdbaths, fountains, and ponds may be lovely landscape features that attract birds. However, they can also be dangerous to young children. Remove or fence off these backyard water hazards until your child is older. You can also consider holding off on installing a well, or using an existing one until your child is older.
- Prevent your child from going outside unnoticed
Always lock the door behind you, and install safety gates or doorknob covers to prevent your toddler from going outside or into a garage or other room. Make sure siblings, family members, and babysitters know to always close the door behind them so younger children do not follow.
- Empty water containers immediately after use
Be sure to empty any liquids from water containers every hour or so and when they are not in use. Never leave a filled, open-top water container unattended.
When cleaning, painting, or doing other chores around the house, make sure you have a few extra buckets and pails on hand. Also, stock up on wading pools for hours of fun in the sun and coolers with melted ice for relaxing with friends on hot days. Make sure you have enough large water bowls for your pets so they can take a break from running around in the yard.
- Block unsupervised access to bathrooms
Bathrooms pose a risk of injury to small children who might fall into the tub or toilet or be scalded by hot water. Install safety latches on door handles and doorknob covers to keep the door closed when you are not using it. Use locks or covers on toilet seat covers, and remove the bathtub drain plug when not in use to prevent accidents from happening.
Provide your child close, constant supervision in and around water
To protect your child’s safety in and around the water, there are a few things you should never do. Drinking alcohol or using your mobile phone in the pool or bath, for example, can take away from the full attention needed to watch out for your toddler. Likewise, doing yard work or any other distracting activity can be very dangerous since it may be hard to stay focused on your child.
- Use touch supervision in or near the water
The best way to keep your child safe when they are around water is to supervise them at all times. Use touch supervision in bathtubs and while swimming to allow yourself to be easily accessible in case of an emergency. Toddlers love bath time. But keep in mind that toddlers drown with alarming regularity, typically during an adult’s lapse of supervision.
- Assign a “water watcher”
Water is the leading cause of injury for children under five, so it is important to keep a close eye on little ones when swimming. Even if you are confident in your child’s swimming skills, assign a “water watcher” as an extra precaution: Simply designate one person to keep eyes on the child constantly. Take turns in your party or group, passing along a card after a set time (such as 15 minutes).
- Use life jackets near lakes and rivers
To protect against drowning, make sure you and your children always wear life jackets when in, on, or near natural bodies of water such as lakes or rivers. Check their fit and make sure the US Coast Guard approves them.
Be ready to respond in an emergency
Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14, so it is crucial that adults learn CPR and safe rescue techniques. Remember to look, listen, and be ready to respond when there is trouble. Everyone, including parents, caregivers, and older children should learn how to respond to a drowning incident by knowing CPR and safe rescue techniques.
Water safety is an important aspect of your child’s health. Your toddler cannot swim, so it is your job to make sure he or she does not get into the water without adult supervision. It is important to be aware of the water dangers your toddler’s faces. Always keep your toddler’s safety in mind around water―at home, where your friends, relatives, and caregivers live, and places you stay during family trips. Prevent unsupervised access during non-swim times and provide close, constant supervision while in or around water.
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