Drowning Prevention and Water Safety for Children and Teens

life jacket, fence, family swimming

Each year, hundreds of people in New York State drown or are hospitalized for severe injuries. Studies show kids and teens are at greatest risk of drowning.

Quick Tips to Prevent Drowning

  • Adults should always supervise children around water, pools, bathtubs, and buckets or pails of water.
  • Pools should have four-sided fencing that restricts access to a swimming pool from the house.
  • Children should never swim alone or be left near water unattended.
  • Everyone should swim in public areas with a lifeguard.
  • Choose a life jacket that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved and properly fitted when using one for swimming, boating, or other water recreation. Life jackets should never replace adult supervision.

Swimming Pools

Pools at Home

Young children should always be supervised by an adult when in and around a pool. No matter the age, an adult should be home when the pool is in use. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 5-14. Every private pool should be surrounded by a four-sided fence. Pool alarms and pool covers should not be used in place of a four-sided fence. If a child were to fall into the pool, they could get trapped underneath the cover.

Public Pools

New York State has a law that requires all public swimming pools built after March 30, 1998, must be enclosed within a fence or other barrier which is at least four feet high and can be entered by bathers only through self-closing and positive self-latching doors or gates.

Take Steps to Prevent Drowning

  • Always supervise young children while in a bathtub and never leave an older child alone to supervise them. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water.
  • Make sure that toilet seat covers are left down and pails or buckets of water are emptied as soon as possible and not left unattended.
  • Avoid risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol or rough play while supervising or engaging in swimming, boating, or other water activities. Engaging in risky behaviors may lead to drownings or near drowning injuries.
  • Be aware and share information that open waters, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans can pose additional hazards to swimmers. These waters have currents, rocks, and uneven surfaces.
  • Make sure your child or teen never swims alone.
  • Teach your child or teen how to swim. Lack of swimming abilities puts them more at risk of injuries and drowning. However, knowing how to swim alone does not prevent drowning.
  • Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death for people with seizure health conditions. If your child or teen has a seizure disorder, heart condition, or other medical condition make sure they are adequately supervised and adjust activities based on the advice of their medical provider.
  • Avoid swimming in cold water. Swimming in water that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower increases the risk of drowning due to hypothermia, which is a dangerous medical condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. The lower the water temperature, the quicker people may be at risk of hypothermia.

Additional Water Safety Advice

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with rescue breathing, first aid, and calling 911 can save a life and minimize injury. Do not use the Heimlich Maneuver (abdominal thrust) because it can induce vomiting and choking.
  • Life jackets should be Coast Guard approved and should not take the place of adult supervision. Air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings and floats, should not be used in place of approved personal floatation devices.