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Childhood Drowning

Link to Spanish version.

  • Drowning is the leading cause of death for Oklahoma children aged 1-4.
  • Over half of drownings or near-drownings among children less than 5 years of age occur in home swimming pools and nearly one-quarter occur in bathtubs.
  • Most young children who drowned in pools had been in the home, out of sight only a few minutes, and were under the supervision of their parents.
  • Young children do not understand the consequences of falling into water and cannot call for help once they are in the water.


  • Always stay close and watch children when they are in or near water, even if they know how to swim. Never leave a child unsupervised, not even for a minute.
  • Don’t be distracted – pay attention! Have a dedicated ‘water watcher’ and take turns with other adults.
  • Keep a phone nearby in case of emergency.
  • Swimming lessons for children greatly reduce drowning risk.
  • Learn child and infant CPR. Early intervention can improve outcomes.
  • Swimming noodles and water wings are not safety devices – they should never be used in place of life jackets.

Pool and Hot Tub Safety

  • Install a self-closing, self-latching gate and pool fencing that completely surrounds the pool that is at least 4 feet high and has no vertical opening more than 4 inches wide.
  • Install safety drain covers and back up devices. Teach children not to play near drains.
  • Always completely remove the pool cover. Never allow puddles to collect on the cover.
  • Follow the same tips for above ground pools, and install a gate around the pool ladder or remove the ladder when the pool is not in use.
  • Install door and window alarms to alert you if a child wanders out of the house.

In the Home

  • Stay within an arm’s reach of your child near the bathtub, toilets, or buckets.
  • Never leave your child alone or in the care of an older child during bath time.
  • After bath time, immediately drain the tub.
  • Empty all buckets and containers after use. Store them upside down. Children can drown in only a few inches of water!

Open Water and Boating

  • Swimming in open water is not the same as in a pool. Be aware of uneven surfaces, currents, undertow, and weather.
  • Children should wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.

Internet Resources

Injury Prevention Service, OSDH, 1000 NE 10th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73117
Revised July 2012

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