Water safety: Protect your child from drowning

Water may be fun for children to play with — but it can also be deadly. Consider these water safety tips for pools, natural bodies of water and household hazards.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most children are drawn to water. It's sparkly. Things float in it. It's fun to splash. But water safety is no laughing matter. Anyone can have a water-related accident — even children who know how to swim. To keep your children safe in and near the water, follow simple water safety guidelines.

Residential swimming pools and spas

Multiple layers of protection can help ensure water safety and prevent drowning in a home pool or spa. If you have a pool or hot tub, follow all local safety ordinances. Also consider these general water safety tips:

  • Fence it in. Surround your pool with a fence that's at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. Make sure slatted fences have no gaps wider than 4 inches (10.2 centimeters), so kids can't squeeze through. Avoid chain-link fences, which can be easy for children to climb. Install self-closing and self-latching gates with latches that are beyond a child's reach.
  • Install alarms. If your house serves as part of your pool enclosure, protect any doors leading to the pool area with an alarm. Add an underwater pool alarm that sounds when something hits the water. Make sure you can hear the alarm inside the house.
  • Block pool and hot tub access. Use a rigid, motorized safety cover to block access to the pool when it's not in use. Secure a cover on hot tubs as well. Empty inflatable pools after each use. Don't allow water to collect on top of the pool or hot tub cover. Remove aboveground pool steps or ladders or lock them behind a fence when the pool isn't in use.
  • Teach children to swim. Most children can learn to swim at about age 5 — but know that swimming lessons won't necessarily prevent a child from drowning.
  • Remove toys. Don't leave pool toys in the water. A child might fall into the water while trying to retrieve a toy.
  • Keep your eyes peeled. Never leave children unsupervised near a pool or hot tub. During social gatherings, adults who know how to swim can take turns being the "designated watcher." Don't rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, to keep children safe.
  • Beware of drains. Don't allow children to play near or sit on pool or hot tub drains. Body parts and hair can become entrapped by the strong suction. Use drain covers, and consider installing multiple drains to reduce the suction.
  • Keep emergency equipment handy. Store a safety ring with a rope beside the pool. Make sure you always have a phone in the pool area.
Apr. 08, 2014 See more In-depth