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Water Safety- Ages 1-4 - Non-Swim Time

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Drowning is the #1 cause of unintentional injury related death for children aged 1-4. Over two-thirds of these accidents occur during a time the child is not expected to be in or near water. They are not supposed to be swimming. They are assumed to be safe inside the home; in their bed sleeping, playing with siblings, sitting on the couch watching TV.... But they wander away and find the water.

Most of these occurrences take place in a backyard pool. Possibly in your own backyard, or at a family member's pool, a friend's, a vacation rental... you do not have to have a backyard pool for your child to be at risk.

Drownings in this age group also occur when a child wanders away and finds a natural body of water. This could be a canal down the street, pond near your yard, or a lake at a vacation resort.

These are the drowning accidents parents do not expect. One may not think their child is in any danger, but water is everywhere. And where there is water, danger is present. Most drownings this age group occur within 5 minutes of the child being seen safe inside the home.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to have eyes on your child 24/7. That is why having multiple layers of protection in place to prevent drownings is so important:

To prevent drownings, layers of protection of protection are vital; because if one layer fails, the other will be there.

  1. Constant Supervision. This is the first and foremost method to prevent drowning in children. This is also the most likely to fail in a non-swim time scenario.

  2. "Water-Watcher". We talk about designating a "Water-Watcher "during swim times, but more specifically for the non-swim time, designating a "Water Guardian" may be more appropriate. This is someone who is in constant supervision of children, stationed between the child and the body of water. This layer would apply to situations that physical barriers are impossible to implement, for example: vacation home without a pool fence or secure door or while picnicking at a lake with other families.

  3. Fences. If you have a pool in your backyard, please invest in a pool fence. Installation of 4-sided fencing, at least 4 feet tall, with self-closing and self-latching gates that completely isolates the pool from the house and yard is the most studied and effective drowning prevention strategy for the young child, preventing more than 50% of swimming-pool drownings of young children. These measures will make it less possible that your child could get inside and to the pool. Pool nets are also a great barrier, as long as you are diligent about replacing the net as soon as you are finished swimming.

  4. Alarms. Pool alarms, self-immersion alarms, door alarms... any alarm that alerts you that the child may be in or near the water.

  5. Secure your door. Prevent access outside through the door with the use of high locks and toddler proof handles. Remove all pet doors as this has lead to many accidental drownings in this young age group.

  6. Skill your child. This is the last layer before an accident occurs. This is the ability for your child to self-rescue in the water. Self-rescue involves the child returning to the surface after being underwater and rolling on to their back in a horizonal position. This is a resting back float and gives the child the ability to take life saving breathes. Children also learn how to exit the water.

  7. Learn CPR. This layer occurs after the accident. Early, high quality, CPR has shown to revive drowning victims. CPR in this case should include rescue breaths.

If a child goes missing, check the water first!

Most parents who lose children to drowning in this manner state "I didn't know." Now you know. Know better. Do better.

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