Drowning Prevention for Children: Seven Layers of Protection at the Pool

A mother floats in the pool with her baby while at swimming lessons

Tragically, it has been a deadly summer in pools, lakes, and the ocean around Massachusetts.

As of the beginning of August, there have been nearly 50 drownings in The Bay State this summer, a significant increase over past years.

Now that the last full month of summer is upon us, South Shore residents will be looking to seize any opportunity to enjoy the water for one last swim before the fall rolls in.

With that in mind, the Injury Prevention Team at South Shore Health would like to reinforce the seven layers of protection to prevent children from drowning while at the pool.

Drownings are 100% preventable if the proper precautions are taken — and a multilayered approach is a critical part of keeping children safe around water.

Below, you can find seven safety tips, each offering its own layer of protection against drowning.

Install barriers around the pool

It is critical for pools to be surrounded by fencing on all sides. Any gates to enter the pool area should be childproof as well.

Install a pool alarm

70% of drownings happen when parents didn’t know their child was near the water.

Pool alarms add an additional element of safety to your pool set-up, helping you know when a child may have entered the water without your knowledge.

Have adults serve as water watchers

Another critical line of defense against drowning is a designated adult who watches the swimming children.

Ideally, adults should rotate serving as the “water watchers” and be dedicated solely to observing the swimmers.

Drowning is silent and fast – be aware of the smallest distractions that take your eyes off of the water.

Put the toys away at the end of the day

While balls, floats, and other toys are fun to play with in the pool, they can also be a temptation to toddlers and other young children.

A child under 30 pounds can drown in just 30 seconds – removing anything that may tempt them to enter the pool is a great extra safety step.

Putting those toys away when not in use helps reduces the risk of a child falling into the pool.

It is never too early for swimming lessons

Talk with your pediatrician about high-quality swimming lessons in your area – in some cases, lessons are available for children who are just four to six months old.

Additionally, consider ISR Self-Rescue© instructions for your child. ISR has been in practice for more than 45 years – their mission is “not one more child drowns.”

They have trained more than 8 million infants to self-rescue, which can be a life-saving skill if a child falls in the water.

Beware of “puddle jumpers”

Puddle jumpers (and other “floaties” commonly used for children) are meant to ease the minds of parents and keep children safe in the pool.

However, these tools give a false sense of security.

A child wearing puddle jumpers needs just as much supervision as a child who isn’t wearing them.

Half of child drowning victims are out of sight for less than five minutes, and in the care of both parents.

Additionally, after pool time, when the puddle jumpers are off, all children remember is how much fun they had jumping into the pool – something they may try again without the puddle jumpers.

Learn CPR

Knowing CPR can save a life in the event of a water emergency. Grandparents, parents, pool owners, and babysitters (just to name a few) should know CPR.

CPR courses are offered by the American Red Cross and a number of private organizations; there’s likely a course being offered close to you.

Parents of toddlers and young children work hard all day long to protect their children from any and all dangers.

Despite those efforts, drowning remains the #1 cause of unintentional injury-related death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

By adding these layers of protection, we can all do our best to prevent any more beautiful summer days from turning tragic.

This post was written by South Shore Health's Trauma Program Injury Prevention Team.

Learn more about our Injury Prevention Program.