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Child Safety: Drowning Prevention in Pools and Hot Tubs

Topic Overview

Swimming pools

Most childhood drownings occur in swimming pools. When visiting public or private pools, make sure that your children are supervised closely and that they are familiar with pool safety rules.

If you have a pool at your home, use these tips to help prevent drowning tragedies:footnote 1

Pool safety

  • All pool owners should be certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • If a child is missing, look immediately in the pool. Every second counts in drowning accidents.
  • Never let your child swim without an adult present.
  • Always have your child wear a life jacket when swimming or boating.
  • Inflatable toys or mattresses should not be used when young children are swimming in water above the waist.
  • Remove toys from the pool when they are not in use. Young children attracted to the toys can fall in when reaching for them.
  • Any doors leading from the house to the pool should be fitted with an alarm that sounds anytime the door is opened unexpectedly.

Pool equipment

  • Install a power safety cover for when the pool isn't in use. This is a motor-powered device that acts as a barrier over the water.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool. This includes a portable phone with emergency numbers, a life preserver, and a shepherd's hook.
  • Above-ground pools that aren't in use should be inaccessible. Secure steps and ladders to prevent an unsupervised child from climbing into the pool.
  • Install underwater pool alarms that can be heard inside the house and in nearby areas. Alarms that can be used with pool covers are recommended.
  • Install fences and walls around the entire pool. Fences should be at least 4 ft (1.2 m) high, with self-closing and self-latching gates. Latches should be out of a young child's reach.

Hot tubs and spas

Hot tubs and spas often are an overlooked drowning danger for children. Drowning can result from unintentional falls into the water, from hair that becomes tangled in drains or jets, or from body parts becoming trapped.

Consider keeping hot tubs and spas off-limits to young children. Talk to your doctor before allowing children younger than age 5 to use them.

If you allow children in a hot tub or spa, prevent a drowning incident by taking proper precautions and talking to your children about potential hazards. The following recommendations can help protect your children from an accident or drowning related to hot tubs and spas:footnote 2

  • Closely supervise children around a hot tub or spa. And have a phone nearby to call for help in an emergency.
  • Don't allow underwater play in a hot tub. Hot tub and spa jets and drains can suck hair in, trapping a child underwater. Explain to children that hot tubs and spas aren't swimming pools or places for active play.
  • Know where the pump cutoff switch is located so that it can be turned off in an emergency.
  • Keep a locked safety cover on the hot tub or spa when it's not in use. If a drain cover is missing or broken, shut down the spa until the drain cover is repaired or replaced.
  • Don't allow the water temperature to exceed 104°F (40°C) in hot tubs and spas. Drowning has occurred from extremely hot water, which can cause drowsiness and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is another danger.
  • Install a door alarm, a window alarm, or both to alert you if an unattended child wanders into the hot tub area.

If you have a pool or hot tub where you live, find out if the drains and other parts meet current safety standards. Check with the place where you bought the pool or hot tub, or ask a pool operator.

References

Citations

  1. Consumer Product Safety Commission (accessed August 2012). Backyard pool: Always supervise children, Safety Commission warns. CPSC Document No. 5097. Available online: http://cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5097.html.
  2. Safe Kids USA (accessed August 2012). Pool and hot tub tips. Available online: http://www.safekids.org/safety-basics/safety-resources-by-risk-area/drowning/pool-and-hot-tub-safety-tips.html.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (accessed August 2012). Pool safety for children. The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP). Available online: http://www.aap.org/family/tipppool.htm.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofMarch 28, 2018


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