Relax and Swim

Safety: Drowning Prevention

Drowning Prevention

If you are fearful of water, you know you will never go near it without being prepared. So even before you take swimming lessons, my friends, you can and must drown-proof yourself and your family. Then go and enjoy.

Water safety tips for all ages

If a child is swimming or playing near the water, an adult – who must know how to swim – must be within arm’s reach and watching at all times. No reading, chatting on the phone or drinking alcohol for you, dear adult. But keep the phone handy.

Buddy up: Always swim with another decent swimmer. Always have someone on land close by and watching you. Go ahead and swim, knowing that you are being watched over.

Air-filled water toys such as water wings, mattresses and other plastic inflatables are not life preservers! They are toys only, and are made to deflate. Empty them of air when playtime ends.

Pool toys belong in a pool’s shallow end for non-swimmers to safely play with them, wearing their PFDs, of course. Empty pools should never have tempting toys in or near them.

All pools and spas need a 5-foot fence around all sides. Chain-link fences are too easy for kids to climb, but if you must have one, make sure the diamond shape is much smaller than 2 inches wide.

Pool gate latches must be taller than a child (54 inches from the bottom of the gate), and must self-close and self-latch. No chairs or other furniture near the fence for climbing.

Large, inflatable, above-ground pools have become popular in backyards. If children lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool, they could fall in. It is essential that these inflatable pools be surrounded by an appropriate fence, the same as any permanent pool, so that children can’t climb into them.

How deep is that pool? The American Red Cross recommends at least 9 feet of depth for diving or jumping in. This means that above-ground pools can’t be dived into. Safest still, just ease yourself in feet first from the pool edge from a sitting position, even if you can see the bottom.

All pools and spas need a 5-foot fence around all sides.

Eating or chewing gum: a choking hazard during water activities. Wait till you get out of the pool and water play is over.

No drug or alcohol use before or during swimming, boating or water skiing. Teenagers especially need to learn about the dangers of alcohol and water sports.

Leave the water when you feel chilly. If your fingers and toes look blue or feel numb, it could mean the onset of hypothermia. GET THEM WARM NOW. Cover them with a blanket, towel, dry clothing, even a newspaper to warm them.

When on a boat for sailing, fishing or other water activities, you and all your family members must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket. You already know how to swim? Good for you. But why risk any surprises? According to the US Coast Guard, 9 out of 10 drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety. The PFD is required in many states for good solid safety reasons. So please put yours on. Try a Type 3 style. The correct fit of a life jacket is vital, especially for a child.

More about choosing a personal floatation device here:

Read about cold-water survival tips here:

Know how to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Of course, you and your family will be taking swimming lessons!

More water safety resources

CDC Protect the Ones You Love: Child Injuries are Preventable: Drownings

CDC Water-related Injuries Resources

The American Academy of Pediatrics Injury Prevention Program

Your baby can learn Infant Self-Rescue

Pool Safety Guide for all Ages

The American Academy of Pediatrics: Swimming Pool Safety for Children

The Adventures of Splish and Splash (an interactive pool safety game for children)

(Thanks to Heather Pierce for the last 3 listings.)

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All USCG-approved PFDs are classified as Type 1, 2, and 3 (also there are Types 4 & 5, but we won’t get into those here).

Type 1 For ocean-going vessels but rarely used in instructional settings. It keeps you upright, facing slightly backward and floating for long periods.

Type 2 Rolls you on your back and supports in that position. These fully cover the back/chest and usually have a “collar.” Type 2 for infants and children often has a crotch strap to keep the PFD from slipping over the head upon impact with water.

Type 3 Most often used for water sports and for swimming aids. They are also most affordable. These jackets are made to support you in water. They won’t roll you over on your back. If you are unconscious or don’t have control of your head, the jacket will support you, but in a face-down position.

Thank you, US Coast Guard. Read on, friends:

The Cold Facts:

  • Be aware that cold water (less than 70 degrees F (21 Degrees C)) can lower your body temperature. This is called hypothermia. If your body temperature goes too low, you may pass out and then drown. Even if you’re wearing a PFD, your body can cool down 25 times faster in cold water than in air.
  • Water temperature, body size, amount of body fat, and movement in the water all play a part in cold water survival. Small people cool faster than large people. Children cool faster than adults.
  • But PFDs can still help you stay alive longer in cold water. They let you float without using energy and they protect part of your body from cold water. A snug-fitting PFD is better than one that’s loose-fitting. When you boat in cold water, use a flotation coat or deck-suit style PFD. In cold water, they’re better than vests because they cover more of your body.
  • When you’re in cold water, don’t swim unless you can reach a nearby boat, fellow survivor, or floating object. Even good swimmers drown while swimming in cold water. Swimming lowers your body temperature.
  • If a nearby floating object is large, pull yourself up on it. The more your body is out of water, the warmer you’ll be. Don’t use drownproofing methods that call for putting your face in the water. Keep your head out of the water to lessen heat loss and increase survival time.
  • Use of the HELP position will lessen heat loss. However, if you’re wearing a Type III PFD, or if the HELP position turns you face down, bring your legs together tight and your arms tight to your sides and your head back. See the SURVIVAL POSITION examples shown below.
  • If there are others in the water, HUDDLE together for warmth. Keep a positive outlook. It will improve your chances of survival.
  • Always wear your PFD. Even if you become helpless from hypothermia, your PFD will keep you afloat.

Cold water survival positions
Cold water survival positions (US Coast Guard)