A Guide to Home Safety

How to Prevent Drowning

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. To reduce the risk of drowning, never swim alone and exercise extra caution  when using an inflatable rafts or other flotation devices.

Accidental drowning can happen at the beach, at your pool at home, or even in a small container of water like a bucket. There are several ways to keep people from drowning. Read on to find what you can do to prevent drowning deaths.

According to the CDC, drowning is the seventh leading cause of accidental death for all ages and the second leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 14 years. Many drowning victims know how to swim but either swim out too far, suffer a cramp, or just panic and lose control. For every death, many more drowning victims will be rescued and survive but will live with serious brain damage. It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown. Young children are "head-heavy" for their bodies. They can drown in a bucket of water or the toilet because they can't lift their heads out.

Whether you have a pool at home or you like to swim at the community pool or beach, a few simple guidelines will help you safeguard your family from water hazards:

  • Surround your pool or hot tub with a fence that cannot be climbed over or slipped through or under.
  • Install locking gates on your pool and hot tub, and keep them locked. In one study, 70 percent of the pools where a drowning took place had broken or unlocked gates.
  • Purchase a pool cover and pool alarm system.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Contact the American Red Cross, your community hospital, or a local adult-education program for information.
  • Keep a telephone in the pool or spa area.
  • Don't rely on swimming lessons to keep your child safe; you cannot "drown-proof" a child.
  • Never allow anyone of any age to swim alone; even expert swimmers can develop cramps, get dizzy, or hit their heads.
  • Don't rely on plastic arm floats or float toys to support your child; they may slip off or deflate.
  • Teach your children and their guests proper water safety rules, including no running or pushing near a pool deck or on a diving board, no dunking other swimmers, and no yelling "help" unless you are actually in trouble.
  • Never allow a child to remain in or near the bathtub, swimming pool, or any other body of water if you must leave -- even for just a minute. Most toddler drownings occur when the caregiver is distracted by the telephone, chores, or socializing. A child can drown in only a few inches of water.
  • Keep sandboxes covered tightly when not in use. Rainwater can collect inside and pose a danger of drowning to small children.
  • Be sure to alert your baby-sitter to potential pool hazards.

When you're at the beach:

  • Always swim parallel to and not too far away from the shoreline. If you get a sudden cramp or tire, you're not far from shore.
  • If you get stuck in a rip current, swim diagonally to the current. If you are a weak swimmer or become exhausted, float on the current and signal for help.
  • Use caution with rafts and other flotation devices. Waves and strong currents can swiftly carry a sleeping sunbather far offshore.
  • Be careful of sudden drop-offs, strong currents, and undertows when swimming in oceans, rivers, or lakes.
  • Remind children to go into water feet first. Each year, diving into shallow water takes its toll in drownings and spinal cord injuries.
  • Never swim during electrical storms.
  • Never ride in a boat unless there is a life jacket for every passenger, including children. Be sure everyone wears his or her jacket.
  • Wear a life jacket when you water ski or jet ski. Even experienced skiers can fall and hit their heads.

Water can pose a hazard, but so can water's opposite -- fire. The next page will alert you to potential fire hazards in your home and give you tips to prevent fires from starting.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.