Household Safety: Preventing Drowning

Water safety is important at any age, but is especially crucial if you have babies or toddlers in your home. Drowning can happen very quickly and in less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of water, so filled bathtubs, swimming pools, wading pools, hot tubs, and even buckets of water and sinks can be dangerous.

To reduce the risk of drowning:

Bathroom

  • Never leave a baby unattended in the bath. If you must answer the telephone or door, don't rely on an older sibling to watch the baby; wrap your baby in a towel and bring him or her with you.
  • Never leave a bathtub, bucket, or other container filled with any amount of water or other liquid unattended.
  • Never use a bathtub seat or supporting ring without constant adult supervision. The seat can overturn or a baby may slip out into the water.
  • Install a toilet-lid locking device and keep bathroom doors closed at all times. (Or you may want to install a doorknob cover.)

Pool

  • If you have a pool in your backyard, install fencing at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) high on all sides of the pool, as well as a self-closing and self-latching gate with a lock that's out of a child's reach.
  • Consider installing a pool alarm or cover, but realize these devices are not substitutes for fencing and adult supervision.
  • Remove toys from the pool when kids are finished swimming to prevent them from trying to recover them when unsupervised.
  • Inflatable flotation devices such as vests, water wings, rafts, and tubes can give a false sense of security in the pool and are not effective in protecting a child from drowning. Never use these as a substitute for constant adult supervision.
  • Dump out all water from a wading pool when you're finished using it.
  • Remove any ladders from an above-ground pool when not in use.
  • If you leave your child with a babysitter, make sure he or she knows your rules for the pool.

Be Prepared

If you're expecting a baby or you already have a child, it's a good idea to:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Keep the following numbers near the phone (for yourself and caregivers):
    • toll-free poison-control number: 1-800-222-1222
    • doctor's number
    • parents' work and cell phone numbers
    • neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need someone to watch other children in an emergency)
  • Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions inside.
  • Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment

To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what might be potentially dangerous.

Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof locks are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your home. Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.

Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home should be a haven where your little one can explore safely. After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the activities that develop your child's body and mind.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013