Despite increased awareness about drowning prevention, accidental deaths due to drowning still claim the lives of more than 1,000 children each year. Understanding the risks of drowning as well as some basic drowning prevention techniques can make the difference between life and death. While drowning deaths can occur at any age, the greatest risk occurs between the 0-4 years old, with the highest number occurring between 12 and 36 months.

Children can drown in nearly any body of water. This includes the most obvious—swimming pools, lakes, streams, and the ocean—but also includes bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, and buckets. Even shallow kiddie pools can pose a risk to infants and toddlers. While parental supervision is recommended, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of drowning:

  • Adult supervisionIdeally adults should be within “arm’s reach” of a swimming child. They should be focused on the swimmer and free of distractions such as reading material, cell phones, or conversation with other adults. The great majority of drowning deaths occur when there is a lapse in supervision of just a moment or two.
  • Pool fencesIsolation fences that surround the pool on all sides are ideal. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has detailed guidelines for pool fences. It is important to note not only your own pool fence but to take inventory of the homes around you that may have a pool. Fencing rules vary from state to state and are often poorly enforced or apply only to new construction.
  • CPR trainingBasic CPR training can make the difference between a non-fatal and fatal event.
  • Swim lessonsThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends formal swim lessons beginning at age one, but does not indorse the concept that swim lessons of any kind will “drown-proof” a child.
  • Pool alarms and pool covers are not an adequate substitute for an isolation fence.
  • Unlike what is advertised in the movies and on TV, drowning is a silent event. A child will not splash or yell when in trouble.


  • More than 1,000 children die each year from accidental deaths due to drowning.
  • Children can drown in anything from a lake and stream to a bathtub and toilet.
  • Even with swim lessons and CPR training, there is no substitute for parental supervision.

Last reviewed by Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP. Review Date: March 2020


  1. PEDIATRICS Vol. 126 No. 1 July 1, 2010, pp. e253-e262. Prevention of Drowning.


  1. My daughter began swim lessons at 18 months. It is more of a rescue class that teaches them to float on their back until they reach the edge of the pool. They even do some of the classes in full clothing (shoes, diaper, etc). We have continued the classes every summer by doing refresher courses and will now focus more on technique. I would highly recommend swimming class- they are worth every penny.

  2. Drowning terrifies me, as well as most parents I imagine that is why we decided we didn’t want at pool in our backyard until the girls are older and are swimming experts! My two year old will be taking her first swim lessons in a couple weeks and I am very excited about it! I hope she does as well as her sister did! Now that my four year old knows the basics and is able to swim independently my husband and I are a little more relaxed. She will also be taking another swim lesson though to really get the skills down.

    1. I love that you are continuing lessons even after your oldest “knows the basics”! Lessons are a great way to continue water safety, pool safety and to improve competency in the water. Plus, they are a great form of exercise!


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