Bathtime can be a fun time for you and your child and presents a wonderful bonding opportunity. But, unfortunately, it can also present a drowning hazard unless you take the proper precautions. Although when most people think of drowning accidents, they think of pools, oceans, or rivers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that nearly 90 children drown at home each year, with approximately 66% of those drowning incidents occurring in the bathtub.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children one to four and the second leading cause for children one to fourteen. Drowning is also preventable.
January is National Bath Safety Month — and while it’s meant to keep everyone safe in the bath, it’s a good time for a few tips on keeping babies and toddlers safe in the bathtub. If you have young children, it’s a great way to start the new year!
Children can drown in as little as two to three inches of water, and it only takes a second for a child to slip under the water and a few moments to lose consciousness. So they should always be supervised in the bath at all times. Eliminate distractions by having everything you need for bathtime — soap, toys, washcloths, and towels — within reach.
Bath time with young children requires active, touch supervision, meaning no talking on the phone or returning text messages. If you must leave to answer the door or take a phone call, wrap your child in a towel and take them with you.
While bath seats and rings can be used as bathing aids, they will not prevent drowning if a child is left unattended.
- Insist Children Sit While Bathing
Bathtubs are slippery. Young children can easily slip and fall if they stand in the tub because they don’t have the coordination or strength to right themselves if they lose their balance. In addition, toddlers are top-heavy, which can make them unsteady in any situation. The addition of a slip-resistant plastic mat that sticks to the bottom of the tub and grab bars to hold when entering and exiting the tub are also good ideas.
- Make the Bathroom Inaccessible
Unless an adult accompanies 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. However, ensure the locks on the door can be unlocked from the outside in case your child locks themselves in the bathroom.
- Cover Sharp Edges
Many faucets and drain openings have sharp edges. Bumping into one could cause your child to fall and slip underwater. Consider installing a rubber cover for the faucet and child-proof tub knobs to prevent children from turning on the water without adult supervision.
- Be Prepared for Emergencies
Unfortunately, we can’t predict when emergencies will happen. Always have a telephone that can be accessed quickly to call for help. As with other bodies of water, adults who supervise young children in the bathtub should also learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Check with your local American Red Cross chapter, community organizations, and YMCAs for classes and CPR certification.
Everyone Can Help Prevent Drowning
Follow the above steps to ensure that bathtime remains fun and special and doesn’t end in tragedy. Everyone can protect children from drowning, whether at pools, the ocean, rivers, or the bathtub.