Autism Increases the Risk of Drowning

Anyone can drown, but according to research, the risk of drowning is substantially higher for children with autism — as much as 160 times higher than the general pediatric population! With this startling statistic, it’s crucial to understand the risks and provide the necessary resources for children, teens, and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be safe around water. Continue reading to learn about the increased risk of drowning in people with ASD.

About Autism Spectrum Disorder 

According to 2018 data (the most recent data available), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that approximately 1 in 44 children in the US is diagnosed with ASD.

ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. It’s known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. As a result, the abilities of people with ASD vary significantly. 

Why Children With Autism Have a Higher Risk of Drowning

Several factors can contribute to an increased drowning risk for children with ASD. However, since the characteristics of ASD are unique to each individual, the risks vary. Still, people with autism need more support and guidance when swimming or playing near bodies of water.

People with ASD can easily get distracted, wander off and find themselves in a body of water. In addition, they may be unable to communicate when they are in danger or understand what to do in an emergency. Worse, approximately 40% of people with ASD are non-verbal, which means they can’t call for help.

A sensory-based explanation for drowning begins with the fact that people with ASD are sensitive to many stimuli.

Sensory overload:

Sensory overload can occur when the brain receives too much information from the senses. People with ASD often have difficulty determining what they need to pay attention to and what they can ignore.

Sensory sensitivity:

Many people with autism are also sensitive to specific frequencies of sound, light, and touch, making them more likely to experience panic attacks or an inability to cope with stressful situations.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD):

Individuals with ASD have difficulties understanding, organizing, or using information from their senses. It may affect their ability to filter out background noise during conversations or concentrate on one task at a time; it also usually means that they will find certain textures unpleasant. 

Over-responsivity/under-responsivity:

These terms refer not only to a physical response a person with ASD has when exposed to certain stimuli like loud noises or bright lights but also how they process sensory stimuli mentally (for example, by becoming anxious about it). 

There are many types of over-responsivity or under-responsivity, depending on whether talking about physical reactions versus emotional ones like fearfulness or anxiety. Either way, these issues tend not just to influence behavior but also self-esteem because they make many everyday experiences difficult for those affected, even if those challenges aren’t always easy for others around them to understand. 

Keeping People With ASD Safe Around Water

Water safety is extremely critical for individuals with autism. If you are the parent or caregiver of an individual with ASD, consider taking the following steps to keep them safe around water and prevent drowning.

Teach Individuals With ASD the Importance of Water Safety

It is never too early to teach your child with ASD the importance of water safety. Exposing your child to water at a young age will help them become comfortable around it. Use visuals like picture cards or social stories to teach rules related to water and maximize learning. Be on the lookout for a tendency toward or special interest in water. 

Find an Autism-Certified Water Safety Instructor

People with ASD can experience being in the water differently than others, making it easier for them to become overwhelmed and panic. It’s one of the reasons gaining experience with water in a controlled environment is essential. Learning how to swim and be comfortable in the water can provide peace of mind and protection from drowning.

Find a pool where classes are offered specifically for children with autism so your child feels comfortable learning how to swim in a safe environment. 

Emphasize the Dangers of Water

Staying safe around water is about more than just the ability to swim. It’s vital that individuals with autism understand the importance of water safety. While some children and adults with autism are capable swimmers, their attraction to water can still lead them into dangerous situations — like a body of water with a strong current. Make sure the individual understands all of the dangers associated with water.

Take Precautions To Prevent Wandering

If your child is drawn to water, ensure pools are gated and inaccessible. Install window and door alarms on your home to know if your child has left your home unsupervised. Never leave your child unaccompanied or out of sight near the water.

Spread the Word

Let your neighbors know about your child’s tendency to wander and their attraction to water so they can be on high alert. Distributing a flier with information specific to your child can be very helpful. In addition, the Autism Speaks Neighbor Alert Letter is an excellent way to notify your community.

Help Us Keep Everyone Safe From Drowning

Even if you don’t have a loved one with autism, understanding the dangers for someone with autism can save lives. Together we can end the heartache of losing a loved one due to drowning. Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.

Open Water Safety Tips: 5 Differences Between Open Water and Pools

Every year, millions of people flock to beaches, lakes, and rivers to enjoy a fun, relaxing day with friends and family. They can be great locations for outdoor recreation, whether it involves body surfing, boating, or just taking a dip to cool down on a warm day. But, like any body of water, beaches, lakes, and rivers can also be dangerous. 

Research shows that open water areas, such as lakes, rivers, and the ocean, are the most common sites for drowning for those over five in the US. In 2016, open water drownings made up 43 percent of childhood drownings. In addition, males are at a much greater risk of a fatal open water drowning than females, with 84 percent of open water drownings in children from infants to 19 occurring in males.

If you’re considering a trip to open waters, it’s essential to understand that oceans, lakes, rivers, and other open water settings have unique hazards that affect safety tips. Understand the risks so you’re prepared before jumping in or boarding a boat.

Differences Between Open Water and Pools

  1. Limited Visibility 

Unlike pools, with water in beaches, lakes, rivers, and other open water, what’s under the water isn’t always visible. As a result, hazards like rocks, logs, or sudden drop-offs aren’t always detectable. Limited visibility can also make it difficult to see if a child falls in the water.

Always enter unfamiliar water feet first, wade in slowly, and avoid diving headfirst. If lifeguards are present, ask them which areas are the safest. 

  1. Depth, Distance, and Drop-offs

No signs indicate the deep end in open water, so it’s nearly impossible to know if you’ll be in over your head. Also, because open water is larger than a pool, it can challenge to perceive distance from the shore. So always swim in designated swimming areas and check signs for potential dangers. 

  1. Water Temperature

In many cases, open water is usually colder than water in a pool, affecting a person’s swimming ability. In addition, falling into cold water can result in shock, leading to panic and even drowning. 

  1. ​​Waves 

Body surfing and playing in ocean waves can be fun, but they can also be dangerous. So, before jumping into the ocean, ensure you and your children know how to deal with crashing waves.

  1. Currents and Tides 

Currents in rivers, creeks, and streams can be fast and unpredictable. Although it’s possible to see strong currents in things like rapids, strong currents can flow under the water’s surface. In oceans or lakes, waves and rip currents can be dangerous. Avoid swimming at unsupervised beaches or areas not designated for swimming. Ensure children know how to deal with a crashing wave and escape a riptide or strong current.

Boating

Sailboats, powerboats, and canoes are just a few ways to enjoy the open water. Unfortunately, however, drowning deaths caused by boating accidents are also on the rise. 

According to the US Coast Guard, 46 boating deaths involving individuals 19 and younger, nearly 60 % attributed to drowning, occurred in 2019. Almost 80 % of the boating deaths in this age group occurred while riding an open motorboat, canoe, or kayak. An analysis revealed that 70 % of the operators had not had boating safety instruction, and 23 % cited alcohol as a leading factor. 

Nearly 90 percent of boating-related drowning deaths involved individuals not wearing a life jacket. Life jackets — also known as life vests, life preservers, and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) — are crucial for boating safety. Even experienced swimmers should wear a life jacket when boating.

Equally important is wearing the correct life jacket. The lifejacket must be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved. Look for the USCG stamp inside the lifejacket, alongside sizing and other valuable information.

Unintentional Drowning is Preventable

We can save lives and heartache. Request a free water safety presentation to share with your community, school, business, etc., to educate everyone about drowning prevention. Learn more about drowning and prevention programs and use our Water Safety Checklist to keep children safe and avoid the pain of losing a child due to drowning.

Drowning Rates Impacted by Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Every year, 3,960 people, or about 11 people per day, die due to drowning in the United States. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics listed drowning as the most common cause of death among children one to four years, surpassing congenital disabilities. However, there’s also good news. Unintentional drowning deaths among children declined over the past two decades, but ethnic and racial drowning disparities continue.

Multiple reports released in 2021 show that some racial disparities in drowning deaths have persisted for over 20 years. Specifically, the reports reveal that disparities in drowning death rates are largest among Black, American Indian, and Native Alaskan youth compared to Caucasians, with little or no disparities among Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Caucasians.

One CDC report shows that the drowning death rate among American Indian and Alaska Native people under 30 was twice as high as the drowning death rates for Caucasians, while the rate for Black people was 1.5 times that of Caucasians.

Another report, the American Academy of Pediatrics’( AAP) “Prevention of Drowning,” found that from 2014 to 2018, for babies and children under 19, fatal drowning rates were highest among Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native individuals. In addition, the study reported that while most white children died in residential pools, Black youths were most likely to die in a public pool, often at a motel or hotel.

Contributing Factors in Drowning Rate Disparities

The AAP Prevention of Drowning report listed several possible contributing factors. For example, poor swimming skills in children and their parents, lack of swim training during childhood, and lack of lifeguards at motel and hotel pools, particularly among Black children.

One historian, Jeff Wiltse, a history professor at the University of Montana, believes that US history also helps explain why Black children and their parents are less likely to swim. In his 2010 book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America,” he cites a lack of access to public swimming pools during and after segregation.

Wiltse goes on to say that due to the limited access to swimming facilities and swim lessons, swimming did not become integral to the recreation and sports culture within African American communities.”

Similarly, American Indian and Alaska Native individuals also had minimal exposure to swimming at an early age. Many reservations and Alaskan villages don’t have swimming pools, and although many Alaskan villages are by the water, people rarely swim due to the cold water.

Again, the AAP Prevention of Drowning report writes that “inadequate funding for pools, swimming programs, and lifeguards, as well as the cost associated with swimming lessons, may affect water competency and community resources for low-income populations.”

Solving the Disparity Gap

There’s no easy fix or single strategy to eliminate the drowning rates disparity, but the country can implement practices to help. But first, more research is needed to understand better the factors contributing to drowning disparities.

One older study demonstrated that culturally appropriate interventions do work. In the 2003 study,  “Reducing Injuries Among Native Americans: Five Cost-Outcome Analysis,” researchers reported that drowning rates dropped by 53 percent after residents who used Alaska’s Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers as the primary mode of transportation were offered light-weight coats that doubled as floatation devices. However, such interventions require funding.

In the Dec. 2020 study “Adolescent Water Safety Behaviors, Skills, Training and Their Association with Risk-Taking Behaviors and Risk and Protective Factors,” published in Children, recommendations include:

● Ensuring that culturally diverse populations are involved in program development and implementation and providing information for parents in languages other than English.

● Recruiting and retaining lifeguards, swimming instructors, program administrators, and educators for water safety programs that reflect the communities that they aim to reach

Other researchers also suggest including water safety training in school curriculums. In addition, implementing and evaluating community-based interventions, including those promoting basic swimming and water safety skills, among disproportionately affected racial/ethnic groups could help reduce drowning disparities.

Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, provide low-cost and even free swimming lessons.

Working Together to Keep Everyone Safe

Drowning is preventable. Learning to swim and learning water safety can keep all children safe. While swimming lessons and water safety won’t magically protect children from drowning, they provide a layer of protection, reducing the risk of drowning for children one to four by 88 percent!Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep all kids safe.

5 Risk Factors Leading to Drowning

Anyone can suffer the gut-wrenching heartbreak caused by drowning. Every year, especially in the summer months, news reports are full of stories about devastated loved ones mourning the loss of someone who drowned. But, until they experienced it, they thought drowning was something that only happened to others.

The reality is that anytime you’re near a body of water, there’s a possibility of drowning. However, certain risk factors make it more likely. Therefore, the best way to save victims from drowning is to reduce the risks of it happening in the first place as much as possible. And the best way to do that is to be aware of the five most common risk factors for drowning.

  1. Lack of Supervision

Drowning can happen anywhere water can be found — pools, lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans, bathtubs, hot tubs, etc. While anyone can drown at any age, it’s crucial to never leave a child unattended near water. Parents must always provide adult supervision to avoid the horror of discovering a child at the bottom of a pool or in the bathtub.

Adults who know how to swim should take turns being designated supervisors at any recreational water facility to avoid distractions, even when lifeguards are on duty. And children under four should always be supervised at arm’s length, even if they can swim. Air-filled toys, such as water wings, noodles, or inner tubes, should never be relied on to keep children safe in the water. 

Never swim alone and follow the 10/20 rule: scan the area every 10 seconds and be able to reach the water within 20 seconds.

  1. Absence of Barriers 

A swimming pool can provide hours of fun and much-needed relief in the sweltering heat of the summer. But, unless the correct type of safety barriers are in place, it can also be dangerous, especially for young children. Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional death among children 1 to 14, and 45% of child drowning deaths occur at a swimming pool at a private residence.

Responsible pool owners must make their pools safe by installing a tall, four-sided locking fence tall enough to prevent wandering children from entering the pool area. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning by 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.

The gate leading to the pool should open out and be self-closing. It should also be self-latching with a latch above a child’s reach, and there should be less than four inches of space between the fence and the ground. 

Ideally, an inground pool should be covered with a rigid safety cover (preferably motorized) whenever it’s not in use. Above-ground pool covers should fit securely over the pool’s surface to ensure that a child can’t get trapped underneath. All ladders and steps should also be removed from an above-ground pool and safely stored.

While installing a fence or a motorized rigid cover may not be cheap, it is worth a child’s life.

  1. Inability To Swim

Although even strong swimmers can drown, people who are weak swimmers or who can’t swim at all are at a much higher risk of drowning. Not having the skills to tread water or keep their heads above water puts them in danger. 

Pediatricians recommend swimming lessons for children older than one. However, parents and caregivers should determine if a child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. Swimming lessons for children under one are not recommended, as they are not developmentally able to learn breathing techniques.

Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, provide low-cost and even free swimming lessons. Look for trained swim instructors certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Ideally, programs should also teach water competency — the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.

  1. Lack of Life Jackets and Rescue Devices

Enjoying a day on open water requires having properly-fitting life jackets for everyone. Anytime someone gets in the water —  on a tube, wakeboard, skis, or boat — they should wear a life jacket. 

In 2020, the Coast Guard counted 5,265 boating accidents that involved 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket

The U.S. Coast Guard requires boats to have a USCG-approved life jacket that is accessible, in good serviceable condition, and of an appropriate size for each person on board. Boats 16 feet and longer are also required to have a Type IV throwable device on board.

  1. Impairment or Intoxication

Intoxicated people are at a higher risk of drowning when in or near water than their sober counterparts. According to the CDC, around 70% of water recreation deaths and one in four emergency department visits for near-drownings are associated with alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and many other drugs impair balance, coordination, and judgment, making users more likely to engage in risky behaviors. These factors can combine to make drowning more likely.

Everyone Can Help Prevent Drowning

Together we can end the heartache of losing a loved one due to drowning. Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.

Be Aware of These Home Water Safety Hazards

Most news coverage about drowning is about pool drownings or in bodies of open water—oceans, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Statistics bear this out, showing that 87 percent of drowning fatalities for children under five occur in home pools or hot tubs. 

While backyard pools and spas are obvious drowning hazards, multiple other items and areas around the home also present a drowning threat to young children. Ensure you’re aware of these potential home water safety hazards to keep your children safe.

Protecting Children in the Home

There’s a lot of messaging about the importance of providing constant adult supervision when children are at a pool or open body of water. The same messaging applies to water safety in the home. The key is awareness and supervision. 

Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water! Unfortunately, that means several areas and items around your home may not be safe for children—bathtubs, toilets, sinks, empty tubs, buckets, and containers can all create a disastrous situation for small children.

Divided Attention

The home is not only full of possible water dangers, some obvious and some hidden; it’s also packed with things that divert parents’ attention. At home, life consists of household tasks like meal preparation, phone calls, answering the door, and tending to other children. Unfortunately, most toddler drowning deaths occur when parents’ attention is divided.

We often try to convince ourselves that we can multitask, although science clearly says humans cannot. It’s much harder to be in the present when we attempt to multitask. Water safety, at home and everywhere else, requires parents and adults not simply to be present but to keep an active eye on children doing activities near or in water—something we can’t do if we’re attempting to multitask.

Home Water Safety Hazards

The first step to protecting your children from water dangers in the home is to be aware of the possible dangers lurking in your home. Some are obvious; others are not. Children are drawn to water, which can be great fun, but they’re unaware that it can also be deadly.

It doesn’t take much water or time for tragedy to strike. Small children can easily drown when they lean forward to look into a bucket or open the toilet. Because the head is the heaviest part of a small child, it is easy to fall over into a container. Containers filled with liquid often weigh more than a small child, so they won’t necessarily tip over if a child falls in. A curious toddler can fall into a toilet, bucket, or fish tank. Consider taking these precautions:

Keep bathroom doors closed. 

Unless an adult closely watches them, young children should be kept out of bathrooms. Teach everyone in the home to keep bathroom doors closed. Consider installing a hook-and-eye latch or doorknob cover outside the bathroom doors. 

Supervise bath time.

Never leave a child alone in the bathtub or in the care of another child, even for a few seconds. Drain water from the tub immediately after use. Avoid using bath seats or rings, which your baby can easily slip out of and become trapped underwater. An adult must be within arm’s reach, providing touch supervision at all times.

Shut toilet lids. 

At the very least, always shut toilet lids. In addition, consider installing childproof locks on lids.

Store buckets safely. 

Always empty buckets and other containers immediately after use. Don’t leave them outside, where they might accumulate water.

Drain ice chests or coolers.

Ice chests with melted ice can also be a danger. Always drain ice chests immediately, close the lid, and, if possible, store them where young children can’t reach them.

Watch children around irrigation ditches, postholes, and wells.

Watch children closely when they are playing near wells, open postholes, or irrigation or drainage ditches. Fill in empty holes, or have fences installed to protect your children.

Supervise children around fishponds and fountains.

Curious children can fall into fishponds and tumble into fountains quickly and quietly. Practice the same water safety procedures you would use at a pool or open body of water.

Always cover hot tubs, spas, or whirlpools.

Use a rigid, lockable cover on hot tubs, spas, whirlpools, or fences on all four sides as you would for a swimming pool.

Learn CPR and know how to get emergency help.

Learn first aid and CPR. CPR saves millions of lives; if you do not know CPR techniques, you can inquire at the Red Cross, hospitals, and local fire departments that offer CPR training. 

We Can All Prevent Drowning

Unintentional drowning is preventable. Request a free water safety presentation to share with your community, school, business, etc., to help educate everyone about drowning prevention. Learn more about drowning and prevention programs and use our Water Safety Checklist to keep children safe and avoid the pain of losing a child due to drowning. Together we can save lives and heartache.

Toddlers and Teen Boys Top the List of Drowning Victims

Drowning can happen to anyone. But when researchers examined drowning statistics, they found that toddlers and teen boys were the most at risk for accidental drowning. In addition, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes for children 1 to 14.

Despite dramatic images of drowning depicted in movies and television that show a drowning person frantically splashing or screaming, drowning is silent and quick. And it can happen in a bathtub, an inflatable backyard pool, a bucket, or even a pool or beach where lifeguards are on duty. 

Toddlers and Water Safety

Toddlers are curious and drawn to water. It’s fun and enticing, and they’re too young to see that water can also be a danger. The physical build of a toddler is also an issue. With heads larger than their bodies, toddlers can’t lift their heads if they go underwater. Also, they can’t speak or call for help when water covers their nose and mouth. But there are strategies to help keep toddlers from drowning.

Important information is readily available about the drowning dangers for young children, especially toddlers. While swimming pools are where most children under the age of four drown, the world is filled with potential drowning hazards for young children. For instance, toilets, bathtubs, and buckets are where children under one most often drown. However, the biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected, unsupervised access to water. 

Supervision is the key, and parents are constantly told to watch children when they’re near or in the water and prevent unsupervised accidental access to it.

Teen Boys and Water Safety

There’s less attention on another demographic at risk for drowning: teen boys. There may be multiple reasons teen boys are in danger of drowning. First, teen boys are more likely to swim unsupervised with permission. Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that teenage boys are ten times more likely to experience drowning than females due to greater exposure to aquatic environments, overestimating swimming ability, higher risk-taking behavior, and greater alcohol use.

Another factor is the teenage brain, which is prone to risk-taking without considering the consequences. For example, the underdeveloped teen brain can cause otherwise strong swimmers to not think through their actions and head into an unsafe situation.

How to Keep Your Children Safe (Regardless of Their Age)

Preventing children from drowning requires multiple layers of protection and vigilance. While taking more immediate control with young children may be possible, some precautions apply to all children. The first step is to educate yourself and your children on the best water safety practices to prevent drowning.

Make sure your children learn how to swim and learn water safety. Although swimming lessons and water safety can’t guarantee that a child won’t drown, research has found that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for children between ages one and four. The study also found that formal lessons were associated with an estimated 88 percent reduction in drowning risk for kids under four years old.

Active Adult Supervision

Even if your child knows how to swim and water safety practices, unpredictable circumstances can happen anytime. Without question, laser-focused adult supervision is critical to drowning prevention. 

With young children, that means always providing close and constant attention within an arm’s reach. It’s easy to get distracted, so if you’re waiting for an important call or email, designate a water watcher who can provide their undivided attention.

Teens should always swim in areas with lifeguard supervision. And remember, although it may seem as though teens are tuning you out if you try to talk to them about being safe in the water, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening.

Swimming Lessons and Water Safety Instruction

The ​​American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children one and older. However, each child is different, and it’s important to talk with your pediatrician to determine if your child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. For example, swimming lessons are not recommended for children under one because they’re not developmentally able to learn breathing techniques. 

Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, offer low-cost financial assistance and even free swimming lessons.

Emergency Preparedness 

Make sure you have the skills and equipment needed in an emergency. Learn first aid and CPR. If you don’t know CPR techniques, you can inquire at the Red Cross, hospitals, and local fire departments that offer CPR training. It’s also a good idea to always have access to a cell phone, so you can quickly call 911 in an emergency. Finally, learn how to safely rescue others without endangering yourself, using the “reach and throw” method.

Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.

Toddlers and Teen Boys Top the List of Drowning Victims

Drowning can happen to anyone. But when researchers examined drowning statistics, they found that toddlers and teen boys were the most at risk for accidental drowning. In addition, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes for children 1 to 14.

Despite dramatic images of drowning depicted in movies and television that show a drowning person frantically splashing or screaming, drowning is silent and quick. And it can happen in a bathtub, an inflatable backyard pool, a bucket, or even a pool or beach where lifeguards are on duty. 

Toddlers and Water Safety

Toddlers are curious and drawn to water. It’s fun and enticing, and they’re too young to see that water can also be a danger. The physical build of a toddler is also an issue. With heads larger than their bodies, toddlers can’t lift their heads if they go underwater. Also, they can’t speak or call for help when water covers their nose and mouth. But there are strategies to help keep toddlers from drowning.

Important information is readily available about the drowning dangers for young children, especially toddlers. While swimming pools are where most children under the age of four drown, the world is filled with potential drowning hazards for young children. For instance, toilets, bathtubs, and buckets are where children under one most often drown. However, the biggest drowning threat facing families with toddlers is unexpected, unsupervised access to water. 

Supervision is the key, and parents are constantly told to watch children when they’re near or in the water and prevent unsupervised accidental access to it.

Teen Boys and Water Safety

There’s less attention on another demographic at risk for drowning: teen boys. There may be multiple reasons teen boys are in danger of drowning. First, teen boys are more likely to swim unsupervised with permission. Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that teenage boys are ten times more likely to experience drowning than females due to greater exposure to aquatic environments, overestimating swimming ability, higher risk-taking behavior, and greater alcohol use.

Another factor is the teenage brain, which is prone to risk-taking without considering the consequences. For example, the underdeveloped teen brain can cause otherwise strong swimmers to not think through their actions and head into an unsafe situation.

How To Keep Your Children Safe (Regardless of Their Age)

Preventing children from drowning requires multiple layers of protection and vigilance. While taking more immediate control with young children may be possible, some precautions apply to all children. The first step is to educate yourself and your children on the best water safety practices to prevent drowning.

Make sure your children learn how to swim and learn water safety. Although swimming lessons and water safety can’t guarantee that a child won’t drown, research has found that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for children between ages one and four. The study also found that formal lessons were associated with an estimated 88 percent reduction in drowning risk for kids under four years old.

Active Adult Supervision

Even if your child knows how to swim and water safety practices, unpredictable circumstances can happen anytime. Without question, laser-focused adult supervision is critical to drowning prevention. 

With young children, that means always providing close and constant attention within an arm’s reach. It’s easy to get distracted, so if you’re waiting for an important call or email, designate a water watcher who can provide their undivided attention.

Teens should always swim in areas with lifeguard supervision. And remember, although it may seem as though teens are tuning you out if you try to talk to them about being safe in the water, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening.

Swimming Lessons and Water Safety Instruction

The ​​American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children one and older. However, each child is different, and it’s important to talk with your pediatrician to determine if your child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. For example, swimming lessons are not recommended for children under one because they’re not developmentally able to learn breathing techniques. 

Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, offer low-cost financial assistance and even free swimming lessons.

Emergency Preparedness 

Make sure you have the skills and equipment needed in an emergency. Learn first aid and CPR. If you don’t know CPR techniques, you can inquire at the Red Cross, hospitals, and local fire departments that offer CPR training. It’s also a good idea to always have access to a cell phone, so you can quickly call 911 in an emergency. Finally, learn how to safely rescue others without endangering yourself, using the “reach and throw” method.


Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.

Make Sure Swimming Lessons Include Water Safety Instruction

Raising children is an enormous responsibility. You’re your child’s first and most influential teacher. You take every precaution to keep your child safe, teaching them not to touch the stove and letting them know about stranger danger. Your job involves providing care and protection for your child. 

It’s essential to add swim lessons and water safety instruction to that list. While swimming lessons and water safety can’t drown-proof a child, studies suggest that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce drowning risk for children between ages one and four. For example, the study found that formal lessons were associated with an estimated 88 percent reduction in drowning risk for kids under four.

What Is Water Safety Instruction?

Unlike swimming lessons, which focus on stroke and breathing techniques, water safety teaches skills such as being able to float, roll from front to back, roll from back to front, enter and exit the water, and develop breath control, etc., correctly. Ideally, water safety skills and water safety education should be part of all formal swimming lessons.

The Safer 3 Message—Safer Water, Safer Kids, Safer Response—developed by Stop Drowning Now, breaks water safety into easy-to-understand components.

At What Age Should Swimming and Water Safety Lessons Begin?

Although there are many different answers regarding the appropriate age for swimming and water safety lessons, the American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends waiting until a child has their first birthday to start lessons. The recommendation is based on the knowledge that a baby younger than one has not yet developed the breathing skills required for swimming, which means they cannot swim independently.

However, the AAP recommends classes that engage parent-child duos in water play activities that allow babies the opportunity to get acclimated to being in the water. To find a class for you and your baby, look for programs that employ instructors who are certified American Red Cross lifeguards and qualified in first aid/resuscitation. Remember, the goal should be to feel comfortable and have fun in the water, not the unrealistic expectation of teaching an infant to swim.

Finding a Swimming and Water Safety Class

Look for a program that includes water safety and survival education at the appropriate developmental level. Ideally, a class should teach ‘water competency’ too—the ability to get out of the water if your child unexpectedly ends up in the water.

Ensure the instructor is trained in swim instruction and child development and is currently certified in CPR (some are not). It’s a good idea to observe classes before enrolling your child to monitor lessons for safety skills, the effectiveness of the instructor, and how the children are progressing. Ideally, lessons should be continuous, year-round, not taken for just one season, as skills need to be developed and maintained for life.

A good swimming and water safety program should include:

● Instruction in survival skills before teaching strokes

● Teachers who are trained swim instructors and also certified in CPR and first aid

● Instructors who are in the water with the students at all times

● Limited class size

● A place for parents and guardians to observe

Unintentional drowning is preventable, and together we can save lives and heartache. Request a free water safety presentation to share with your community, school, business, etc., to help educate everyone about drowning prevention. Learn more about drowning and prevention programs and use our Water Safety Checklist to keep children safe and avoid the pain of losing a child due to drowning.

In an Instant: Drowning Is Quick (and Quiet)

In the time it took to read the headline, a young child could drown. Drowning can extinguish a life in mere seconds. Actual times differ depending on the source, but there’s no dispute that it can happen in the blink of an eye. 

Drowning is more common than many people realize. Ten people die from unintentional drowning every day in the US, the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes. Although children are at the highest risk for drowning, anyone can drown. There are nearly 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings yearly in the US, including boating-related drownings.

In addition to being a quick process, drowning is not the dramatic, Hollywood version of a person frantically thrashing about in the water to call attention to their situation. Instead, the drowning process is more subtle in most cases. While a trained lifeguard will more easily notice the signs of drowning, hundreds of children drown every year within the eyesight of a parent because most people don’t recognize the signs of drowning.

The Stages of Drowning

Although drowning happens very quickly, it does take place in stages. The stages can take between 10 and 12 minutes before death occurs, or even more rapidly in the case of a child. People in water distress exhibit something called “Instinctive Drowning Responses.”

Attempting to Call for Help

In rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call for help. A person must be able to breathe to speak. The mouth of a drowning person alternately sinks below and reappears above the surface. While a drowning person’s mouth is above the surface, they exhale quickly.

Attempting to Motion for Help

Drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, so they’re unable to wave for help. Instead, nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. They press down on the water’s surface to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

Physiologically, drowning people struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end, during Instinctive Drowning Response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of being able to kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the water’s surface from 20 to 60 seconds before their bodies are submerged.

Infants Have a Heightened Risk of Drowning

Babies don’t have much neck and muscle control, so even if a small amount of water covers their nose and mouth, they won’t be able to breathe. And infants can drown in as little as just one or two inches of water. 

Unfortunately, bathtub drownings happen during a lapse in adult supervision in many cases. Even if you are using a supportive infant tub or bath seat, it can tip over, and children can slip out of them and drown in even a few inches of water in the tub.

How Much Time Do You Need to Save a Drowning Person?

Saving a drowning person requires a quick response. For example, to save the life of a drowning person, a lifeguard has about as much time as it takes to cook a soft-boiled egg or roughly three minutes.

Notice we said a lifeguard. That’s because you should never go in the water to save someone unless you are trained in life-saving techniques. And if you do go out, if you are trained, you should always bring a flotation device with you. Otherwise, it’s likely and very common for drowning people to pull you down with them. 

We Can All Prevent Drowning

Unintentional drowning is preventable. Request a free water safety presentation to share with your community, school, business, etc., to help educate everyone about drowning prevention. Learn more about drowning and prevention programs and use our Water Safety Checklist to keep children safe and avoid the pain of losing a child due to drowning. Together we can save lives and heartache.

Life Vests: A Fashion Statement That Can Save Lives

It was a July 4th 31st birthday celebration for an accomplished young woman, a former Vanderbilt track star and attorney. She and several friends and family members, including her sister, a teacher, rented a pontoon boat for her birthday party. Without warning, the boat started to take on water after being hit by a strong wave. It tipped, and the woman celebrating her birthday and her sister fell from the boat and drowned. Neither was wearing a life vest. 

In just a matter of minutes, a special day turned tragic, and now, loved ones are left shocked and grieving.

Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident. The news is full of similar stories. A man in North Carolina jumped off a boat to retrieve a fallen item and never resurfaced. Authorities were not sure if the man was wearing a life jacket. Another drowning victim in North Carolina fell off a boat into a pond while fishing. 

These deaths were preventable if only the victims had worn life vests. In 2020, the Coast Guard counted 5,265 boating accidents that involved 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. Where the cause of death was known, 75 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

It Can Happen to Anyone

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, not wearing a life vest can mean the difference between life and death. Events can happen quickly and unexpectedly, and boaters might not have time to grab their life jacket before finding themselves in the water. On the other hand, maybe you removed your life jacket because you were too warm, or perhaps you felt it was too cumbersome. So while a life jacket may not be the trendiest fashion statement, it’s a fashion accessory that you shouldn’t forgo.

Several models of light and comfortable inflatable belt-pack or over-the-shoulder life jackets can be worn while fishing or enjoying time on a boat. 

Life Jackets Save Lives!

But, it needs to be the right life jacket. For example, life jackets are made according to a person’s size and weight. There are also men’s and women’s life jackets and specialized life jackets for various sports (wakeboarding, skiing, kayaking, etc.). So, if you’re a 110-pound female wakeboarder, an all-purpose men’s XL life jacket will not be a good fit for you.

Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths About Life Jackets

If you’re a large person, you need the largest-sized life vest.

Adult life jackets are sized by chest circumference, not by body weight.

The US Coast Guard sets the standards for all USCG-approved life jackets. The minimum flotation for the most common recreational type, Type III is 15.5 pounds.

The Coast Guard has determined that most adults need an additional 7 to 12 pounds of flotation to keep their heads above water. Muscle tissue is less buoyant than fatty tissue. Of course, if you’re an ultra-fit athlete with a low body mass index (BMI), you may not need all that additional flotation. Still, most realistically, most people probably need that extra flotation. 

It’s best to buy a life jacket kids can grow into

This is a common misconception that can be very dangerous. If a life jacket is not a snug fit, a child can slip out of it, or the jacket can ride up, making it difficult for them to keep their head above water.

To check for a proper fit for a child’s life vest, cinch up the adjustment straps, starting from the bottom. Then, lift on the shoulder straps. If the jacket stays in place, it’s a good fit. However, if the jacket rides up and the front comes up to the chin or higher, it’s a dangerous fit. If it still rides up after you’ve tightened the straps and repeated the lifting test, you’ve got the wrong jacket or size.

Youth-size life jackets are designed to fit young people weighing 50 to 90 pounds, and child-size jackets are designed to fit a child weighing 30 to 50 pounds. Getting a life jacket that fits your young person properly is essential.

You can try leg straps if you can’t find a jacket that doesn’t ride up. Some jackets come with leg straps. If the jacket doesn’t come with them, you can usually secure them to the lower side adjustment straps.

As children grow, they need larger clothing. The same is true with life jackets. To keep your child in a good-fitting, safe life jacket as they grow, you will probably have to buy them 2 to 4 different jackets. It’s inexpensive insurance; don’t skimp on their safety.

How To Shop for a Life Jacket

Purchasing a life jacket online is NOT recommended unless you’re already very familiar with the life jacket brand and how it fits. If you want to buy a life jacket online, go to a local store and try on the life jackets beforehand. 

What to look for when choosing a life jacket:

Stamp of Approval

The life jacket must be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved. Look for the USCG stamp on the inside of the life jacket. It’s usually near the sizing and other valuable information.

Size

Make sure the life jacket is the correct size. The life jacket will ride up around your face if it’s too big. If it’s too small, it will not be able to keep your body afloat. Make sure it has a snug fit but allows you to move freely. Make sure there is no excess room above the arm openings.

Condition

A life vest must be in good and serviceable condition to work properly. So before you put on a life jacket, make sure it isn’t ripped, torn, or waterlogged. 

Style

The vest-type is the best type of life jacket for recreational boating. These jackets are “ready to use.” They can turn a person who falls into the water face-up to breathe without the person taking any actions to float. Vest-type jackets are the best choice for calm inland waters, where fast rescue is likely. Choose an offshore life jacket that is more buoyant for rough or more remote waters.

Wear It!

A great fitting USCG-approved life jacket in excellent condition only works if you wear it! Each person on a boat must have a life jacket and wear it.

Take precautions to ensure your day on the water is fun and safe! The Stop Drowning Now Water Safety Challenge is a program that communities can host that includes hands-on training on fitting and the proper way to use a life jacket as part of its water competency training. 


Drowning is preventable, and wearing life jackets on and near the water is one of the best ways to be safe. Learn more with a free water safety presentation. Together we can save lives!

Swimming Lessons Promote Safety, Confidence, and Strength (And They’re Not Just for Kids)

We don’t like to think about people drowning. The topic is uncomfortable, but it’s essential to discuss. It takes a few inches of water and a couple of minutes for a child to lose consciousness. No matter how well prepared you may think you are, it can happen to anyone.

Drowning does not just happen in the summer; it can occur year-round. We cannot survive in water unless we are taught how to swim. Therefore, all adults and children should learn to swim.

And drowning doesn’t discriminate. Anyone at any age is susceptible to drowning. Although it’s not a magic solution, swimming lessons provide a layer of protection against drowning. While swimming lessons won’t magically shield children from drowning, they can reduce the risk of drowning among children one to four years of age by 88 percent.

When and Where to Start Swimming Lessons

Evidence now reveals that many children older than one year of age will benefit from swim lessons. Speak with your pediatrician before considering any children’s water safety/swimming lessons and determine if your child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. Swimming lessons are not recommended for children under one because they’re not developmentally able to learn breathing techniques. 

Several organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and municipal and neighborhood pools, offer low-cost lessons, financial assistance, and even free swimming lessons.

Selecting a Program 

There are several things to look for to choose the best program. First, it’s a good idea to observe classes before enrolling. Here are some things to consider when selecting a program:

Instructor Training

It may sound obvious—but it’s not always the case that the instructors are trained. Ask how teachers are trained and evaluated and whether it’s under an agency’s guidelines, such as the Red Cross or the YMCA.

Instructor CPR Training

Find out if the instructor is certified in CPR (some are not) and if their certification is current.

Student/Teacher Ratio

Preferably, especially for young children and new swimmers, the ratio should be as low as possible. The teacher should be able to have all children within arm’s reach and be able to watch the whole group. There should never be more students than the teacher can safely supervise.

Viewing Accessibility

If you’re a parent, you should have the opportunity to see what is going on in the class. Of course, being on-site the entire time isn’t helpful and can be a distraction, but you should always be welcome to watch a portion of the lesson.

Water Safety Education 

Ensure swim instruction includes water safety and survival education at the appropriate developmental level. Knowing how to get out of the water if you or your child end up in the water unexpectedly is critically important, especially for young children.

Curriculum and Progression

Swimming lessons usually progress from getting used to the water to becoming proficient at different strokes. Ask instructors about their plan to assess progress and what determines whether a student moves forward.

Additional Benefits of Learning To Swim

Knowing how to swim is an excellent defense against drowning, but there are many added benefits, including life skills that aren’t limited to the water. So, whether you’re a child or an adult, it’s never too late to learn how to swim.

Swimming Is Good for Physical Health 

Swimming has tremendous physical benefits, including a full-body cardiovascular and respiratory workout. In addition, swimming helps develop stamina, flexibility, and muscle strength. Swimming burns calories (anywhere from 500-650 calories per hour), and because it’s low impact, it’s a great full-body workout.

Swimming Has a Positive Impact on Mental Health

Swimming engages almost all of the senses: sight, sound, touch, and smell. It is one of the rare distractions from technology, and the “screenless” atmosphere alleviates stress and encourages relaxation and creativity. Also, the feeling of water moving over our body creates a massage-like sensation, helping us release pent-up tension and be more mindful of our surroundings.Research shows that even simply having contact with water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that make us happier, healthier, and less stressed. Another study showed that merely immersing yourself in water increases blood flow to the brain. The result is improved general memory, mood, concentration, and cognitive function.

Don’t let fear prevent you or your child from learning how to swim. Many people share that anxiety. While you don’t want to force a child to do something they are terrified of doing, learning to swim can deliver life-long benefits, help you and your child stay safe, and have a lot of fun!

Without question, adult supervision is the number one way to prevent children from drowning. However, knowing how to swim and understanding water safety can play an important role. Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.

Would You Recognize the Signs of Drowning and Know How To Rescue Someone?

If you spend any time around water, there are two big questions you should be able to answer. If you’re like most people, you may think you know the answers to those questions, but there’s a good possibility that you may not have the complete picture. 

Would You Be Able To Tell if Someone Was Drowning? 

Most people wouldn’t because drowning doesn’t always look like we think it will. Drowning can look like nothing you’d notice, hear, or even expect. In most cases, it’s silent. Drowning isn’t just limited to children or inexperienced swimmers either. Be on the lookout for subtle signs:

● A person motionless or face down in the water

● A person swimming upright but not making any forward progress

● A lowered head or a head tilted way back or with hair covering their eyes or face

● A look of fear or doom in a person’s eyes

● A person who jumps or dives into the water but doesn’t come up quickly

Would You Know What To Do If Someone Was Drowning?

If you’re like most people, your first instinct might be to jump in to try to save the person in distress. Although your heart would be in the right place, jumping in after someone isn’t recommended. It’s the least effective way to save a person and can quickly put you in danger.

5 Ways You Can Help in a Drowning Situation

  1. Throw, Don’t Go 

The safest way to help someone drowning is to throw a lifesaving device, towel, rope, or a pool noodle at the person in the water, wait until they grab hold and then tow the person to safety. Panic can cause a person to obstruct someone from being able to swim or stay above the water. The panicked drowning victim can grab hold of anything they can grab hold of, including the person trying to save them (and pull them down). 

  1. Call for Help

Alert people around you that someone is drowning before taking action to try to save the victim. If something goes wrong, it is vitally important that other people know you may need assistance with the rescue.

  1. Approach the Drowning Person from Behind

If you need to enter the water to save someone from drowning, it is best to approach them from behind to lessen the likelihood that they’ll grab on to you and pull you under the water.

  1. Wear a Life Jacket 

If you are attempting to rescue a drowning victim in an open body of water like a river or lake, put on a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket before you enter the water. It may seem like an extra step when all you want is to help the drowning person, but it could save your and the victim’s lives. In addition, it’s the best way to deal with unknown water conditions, such as currents or an underwater log. If possible, also try to secure yourself to your boat or the shore with a rope.

  1. Learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

Learn first aid and CPR. CPR saves millions of lives; if you do not know CPR techniques, you can inquire at the Red Cross, hospitals, and local fire departments that offer CPR training.

It’s also a great idea to look for life-ring stations installed near bodies of open water. Each station contains a plastic life-preserver attached to a rope. A bystander can open the life ring station, break the glass protecting the ring, and throw it to the victim to keep them afloat or pull them to shore. As soon as the glass breaks, an alarm goes off to alert anyone in the area to the emergency. Check with your town or fire department to see if life ring stations are installed near your favorite spot.

People always think a drowning accident couldn’t happen to them, yet it can. So don’t be haunted by “If only I’d known what to look for” or “If only I’d known what to do.” Instead, follow the guidelines to know the best way to react in a drowning situation.

Together, we can end drowning and save lives and heartache! Take our Water Safety Challenge to measure your family’s water safety competence and help us provide water safety outreach to schools and community groups to keep kids safe.