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Young Childhood Drowning

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  • Young children are curious and often fascinated with water, yet they do not understand the potential dangers of playing in or around it.
  • Drowning is silent; a person who is drowning is not likely to splash, shout, or call for help.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children one to four years of age in the U.S. – two children under age 15 die every day from drowning.
  • Annually in Oklahoma, approximately 10 children under age five die from drowning.
  • Infant drownings most often occur in bathtubs, toilets, and buckets.
  • Most toddler and preschooler drownings occur in residential swimming pools (often when swimming is not the intended activity and the child is assumed to be safe inside).


  • Supervision is critical!
    • Designate an adult with swimming skills to actively watch children in or near any water. Do not distract a “water watcher” or allow them to become distracted.
    • Never leave a child in or near water, even for a second. Drownings occur very quickly, in less time than it takes to answer the telephone or get something to eat.
    • Avoid using alcohol or drugs, or being under their influence, while supervising children; this causes poor judgment and delays in reaction time to emergencies.
    • Use “touch supervision” for young children; stay within an arm’s reach of the child.
  • Use “layers of protection” to prevent drownings. When children are not supposed to be in the water, supervision alone is not enough to keep them safe.
  • Install pool fencing that completely surrounds the pool and is at least four feet high, with self-closing, self-latching gates.
  • Install alarms on all doors and windows that provide access to a swimming pool.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
  • Provide children swimming lessons and water-survival skills training at an early age.
  • Require wearing an approved personal floatation device (life jacket) at all times when boating or near water.
  • Empty buckets and bathtubs immediately after use; consider installing toilet seat locks.

Internet Resources

Injury Prevention Service, OSDH, 1000 NE 10th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73117
Revised May 2016

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