Pediatricians urge families to add extra layers of protection to keep children safe around all sources of water in the home

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging parents and other adults to plan multiple layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water this spring and summer.

This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as children spend more time at home with caregivers who may be distracted by work and other responsibilities.

“Drowning is the single leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and it’s one of the top causes of death for teens. As children are at home more due to social isolation recommendations, they may have more access to pools, bathtubs, and other sources of water – all of which pose a drowning risk,” said pediatrician Ben Hoffman, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention.

“Families may also be visiting lakes, rivers or other open bodies of water as a way to get outdoors while still maintaining physical distance to reduce the spread of coronavirus. We have to make sure that we plan layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water, wherever they are,” Dr. Hoffman said.

According to the AAP, the layers of protection should include:

All children and adults should learn to swim. If swim lessons are suspended in your area due to coronavirus, it is important to add other layers of protection until your child can access lessons. Close, constant, attentive supervision around water is important. Assign an adult ‘water watcher,’ who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores. Around the house, empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. If you have young children, keep the bathroom door closed, and use toilet locks to prevent access. Pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence, with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Research shows pool fencing can reduce drowning risk by 50%. Additional barriers can include door locks, window locks, pool covers and pool alarms. Adults and older children should learn CPR.  Everyone, children and adults, should wear US Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in open water, or on watercraft. Parents and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increases the risk of drowning while swimming or boating.  

“We can’t drown-proof kids, and so planning layers of protection is the best way to protect all children around water,” Dr. Hoffman said.

For more AAP resources on drowning prevention, visit aap.org/drowning.