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Drowning is most common in kids ages 1 to 4. The risk for drowning is higher for African American children and children who have autism. Drowning often happens when curious young children find their way to a swimming pool or other water source, such as a bathtub or even a toilet, without their parents knowing. Children also drown as a result of being left unsupervised around water.
The statistics are alarming, but there are lots of steps you can take to keep your child safe, according to the AAP:
- Don't leave kids alone in or near water, ever: This sounds obvious, but lack of supervision is one of the main reasons kids drown. Keep a firm eye on your child in or near any water source, whether it's a swimming pool, bathtub, spa, pond, irrigation ditch, or shallow wading pool. And don't leave your child in the care of another youngster.
- Provide "touch" supervision: When toddlers or those who are not good swimmers are in or near water, make sure an adult with swimming abilities stays within an arm's length of the children and can quickly pull them out of the water if they go under.
- Designate a "water watcher": Appoint one adult to attentively watch kids in or around water at all times (adults may take turns, but be sure to clearly hand over responsibility each time). A "water watcher” mustn't ever be distracted by phones, socializing, chores, or alcohol. This is essential even if lifeguards are present.
- Enroll your toddler in swim lessons: Depending on their developmental level, children can start learning to swim as early as 1 year old. Enroll your child in a class that teaches basic water competency, including how to get in and out of the water, turn around, and float. Be aware that, while helpful, swim lessons won't "drown proof" your kid, so you'll still need to supervise her in and around water.
- Put up barriers: If you have a pool, encircle it with a four-foot isolation fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate, so that young children can't wander in by themselves.
- Empty all water sources: Even small containers and buckets filled with water can pose a drowning hazard. Be sure to empty them after use.
- Don't leave young kids alone in the bathroom: Kids can drown in bathtubs, even if they're in an infant bath seat. They can also drown in toilets. Installing a toilet lock may help.
- Wear life jackets: Young children should wear life jackets any time they're in or near water. All kids – and parents who want to model good water safety – should wear life jackets on boats.
- Know what to do if the worst happens: Learn how to recognize drowning and what to do if a child is in distress, including how to perform CPR.
For more tips on drowning prevention, check out BabyCenter's water safety page.
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