Tips for Water Safety

Vickie Jones, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Aug. 03, 2014 @ 09:23 AM

I have often heard children, adults and criminals say “It won’t happen to me” or “I won’t get caught.” This phrase is generally used to describe or justify an act one is about to commit with the potential for a negative outcome. This summer I have heard many unnecessary, tragic stories of death and/or serious injury resulting from persons having ignored warnings and taken risks that ended or crippled the life of a loved one. Parents continue to risk their young child’s safety by leaving them unsupervised in or near water.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States and kills more toddlers 1 to 4 years old than anything but birth defects. Along with remembering to never leave an infant or toddler unsupervised in or near water, the following tips from the CDC will help you enjoy water fun this summer.

• Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent among young children aged 1 to 4 years old.

• Designate a responsible adult who can swim and knows CPR to watch swimmers in or around water, even when lifeguards are present. That adult should not be involved in any other distracting activity such as reading, talking or texting on the phone while watching children.

• Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Your CPR skills could save a life.

• Use barriers to pool access to help prevent young children from gaining access to pool areas without caregivers’ awareness. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool, be at least 4 feet high, and have self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward and are out of the reach of children.

• Use the Buddy System. Regardless of your age, always swim with a buddy.

• Look for lifeguards. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards whenever possible.

• Know the terrain. Be aware of and avoid drop-offs and hidden obstacles in natural water sites. Always enter water feet first.

• Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents, like water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore

• Use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. Refrain from the use of air-filled or foam toys such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes in place of life jackets. They are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

• Avoid alcohol. Don’t drink alcohol while supervising children.

• Don’t hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold your breath for too long a period of time. This can cause you to pass out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown. If you pass out or drown you cannot supervise or keep your children safe.

For more information on water safety, visit For information on positive parenting practices, visit Vance County Cooperative Extension to check out books and other parenting materials. You can also register for one of our upcoming Incredible Years Parenting Series beginning in August. Franklin-Granville-Vance Smart Start funds classes, materials and childcare.