Water Safety: Prevent Your Child From Drowning by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

7 min read

Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

A passionate Child Health Advocate, Paediatric Emergency and ICU consultant, Child Safety Expert, Author, and Teambuilder – Dr. Chetan Ginigeri wears different hats according to the role necessit More

kid in swimming pool

Playing in water has its pros and cons. It can be fun and deadly at the same time. One of the saddest but actual facts is, every kid has the risk of getting drowned even if they are able to swim.  Drowning is one of the most prevalent causes of injuries for children around the age of 1 to 14.  While toddlers of age 1 to 4 are the most likely and common cases of drowning in swimming pools, children of age five and above are very likely to drown as well, albeit in rivers and lakes.

Did you know the death rates related to drowning are second only to deaths that occur in relation to birth defects? Therefore, learning how to prevent your child from drowning will surely help in securing your child’s life. Remember, water safety is no matter of laughter. So, let’s have a discussion on that in this article.

In This Article

What Are The Common Causes of Children Drowning?

Drowning is the leading cause of death and injury-related deaths in children. Let us see some of the common causes of drowning in children.

1. Unsupervised Water Access

Children are adventurous by nature and do not like supervision. They like to explore different things away from the watchful eye of parents and caregivers. Unfortunately, children aren’t skilled enough to take care of themselves if something untoward happens.

2. Venturing Into Adult Pools

There is a reason we have child and adult pools separately. It is common knowledge that childrens’ pools have shallower waters when compared to adult pools. If a child, even though a skilled swimmer, ventures into an adult pool, the chances of drowning increase as they are not skilled to wade into deep water.

3. Lack of Swimming Skills

It goes without saying that kids who do not know how to swim are at a higher risk of drowning when compared with kids who know how to swim. This is one of the reasons there is an increasing emphasis on teaching children how to swim.

4. Absence of Pool Cover

In the case of home pools, parents should ensure that the pool remains covered when not in use. The risk of accidentally falling into the pools and drowning is higher when the pool is not covered.

How to Prevent A Child From Drowning?

How to Prevent A Child From Drowning

Drowning among children is a common risk. So, what can parents do to prevent their children from drowning? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

1. Teach your children how to swim. This is an essential life skill. Once your kid learns how to swim, the risk of drowning comes down drastically.

2. Always supervise your child when they are entering the pool for a swim. Have a designated swim watcher whose job will be only to watch over the children as they are swimming.

3. Never let your child go unsupervised into any water body- whether it is a pool or a lake.

4. Keep water jackets handy for early swimmers and children who are not skilled at swimming.

5. Keep flotation devices such as pool tubes handy for children who want to enter into the water.

6. In public pools, always ensure that the pool has a lifeguard for untoward incidents.

7. Make sure that at least one adult member of the family knows how to swim if you have a home pool.

8. Keep home pool covered when not in use. You can go the extra mile and have a fencing around the pool so that kids do not accidentally fall into them while running or playing.

9. Never have alcohol when you are supervising children who are swimming.

10. Accidents can happen within minutes, so it is vital to be alert and vigilant when your children are entering a pool or any water body.

9 Warning Signs That A Child is Drowning

Warning Signs That A Child is Drowning

While we tend to think that a child who is drowning will call out for help, the reality is far removed from what our perceptions are. Children who are drowning may not be able to call out for help but may exhibit certain signs which will alert you. Here is what you should look out for.

  1. You will observe that the child’s head is below the water or at a lower level in the water with their mouth below the water. This is a classic drowning warning sign.
  2. The child’s eyes are glassy or empty looking.
  3. They have kept their head tilted back and the mouth is wide open.
  4. The eyes are either wide open or tightly shut and there is no eye movement.
  5. The child is gasping for air. This is a crucial warning bell that the child may be drowning.
  6. The body of the child is in a vertical or a near-vertical position and there seems to be no leg movement.
  7. The child is not able to move the hair from the forehead and eyes. This shows that the reflexes are not working.
  8. Gasping for breath, struggling to breathe, and moving hands desperately are all signs of drowning.

How Quickly Can A Child Drown?

Little children can drown within 25 seconds in silence. Even if the child is in a shallow part of the pool or in the baby pool, they can drown without much of a chance of saving them. Toddlers cannot scream or splash and so their plight often goes unnoticed. This is also why they are prone to drowning quickly. Interestingly, a major portion of the drowning incidents of the babies happens at various parties because everyone thinks that someone is keeping a closer eye on the pool.

Child Drowning Prevention

Child Drowning Prevention

As parents, it is important to understand what measures you can take to prevent a child from downing, especially when you have babies and toddlers using the pool.

Here are a few precautions you must take.

1. Always Stay Within Arm’s Reach.

You cannot expect your kid to become an expert swimmer at an early age. It is important to have a closer eye on them when they are playing near the pool. Also, when you are at the beach, don’t take your eyes off your baby because it could be highly dangerous. Keeping yourself at arm’s length from your baby could help you to take necessary actions when the time comes.

2. Ignore Your Phone.

Yes, it can be difficult, but you have to do it for your baby. When you are at the beach or near the pool, put your phone out of your arm’s length by putting it in a silent mode. Now, your brain will give you so many things to put you off guard and make you use the phone. That is why keeping it on the silent mode will help you to avoid your phone easily.

3. Don’t Rely on Water Wings

If your child does not know swimming, then you can allow him or her to use floatable toys in the water while you keep a close eye on your child’s activity. Well, these toys are not lifesavers. In this regard, using only the life jackets approved by the Coast Guard will be considered safe. Even so, they can never substitute human instinct in times of an emergency.

4. Be Wary of Plastic or Inflatable Pools

There are many experts who suggest avoiding using the baby pool as they are very heavy and hard to empty. Also, they are not protected through covers and fences. If the baby pool you are using is small in size, you must drain the water once your baby had used it. Also, keep a close eye on your baby while they are inside the pool.

5. Sign Up Your Child For Swimming Lessons

Taking your child to swimming lessons is a great way to reduce the drowning risk of your child. However, if your child’s age is under 12 months, then it is not advisable to take him or her for a swimming lesson because at this stage, he or she will be in a developmental stage.  Take the decision on the basis of the physical development of the child. Also, make sure that you are taking your child to a certified trainer. It is also wise to take the trainer’s counsel on the very matter of safety.

6. When There’s A Crowd, Put A Parent On Lifeguard Duty

It is quite possible that at a party, a parent will get distracted. Also, as mentioned earlier, most drowning incidents happen in the parties; it would be wise enough to have some support in the form of a lifeguard. Hiring help in this regard will ensure the safety of your kids.

7. Teach Your Child Water Rules

In order to make your child’s memorization process easy, follow this:

  • No running in the water
  • No pushing in the water
  • No pulling other kids in the water
  • No diving in the water
  • No swimming without an adult’s observation

In this regard, you should also keep in mind that like children, adults should not swim alone as well because it is not safe for them either.

8. Learn CPR

It is very important to learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR. Even if your child encounters a near-drowning experience, you will be able to perform CPR before the ambulance arrives. This will surely help you to save your child’s life successfully. CPR will help to continue the blood circulation in the brain even when the heart stops. This eliminates any chances of bad outcomes.

9. Where To Get Help

If you need help with keeping a close eye on your child while he or she is in the water, you can make an elder kid friend with the child. He or she will follow your child, and you will know where your child is. However, there is no substitute for adult supervision, and as mentioned earlier, it is always wise to seek the help of a certified trainer.

As a responsible parent, it is your duty to protect your child from the many threats that they may encounter in the water. While it is important for them to have fun, it is also of crucial importance that they learn of these dangers and also how to prevent such mishaps. You can always consult a trainer for more counsel, and also tutor your child on some basic swimming.

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Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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