Water safety tips from Dr. Madhok

Dr. Manu Madhok, a physician in the Emergency Department at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, offers tips to help keep kids safe near and in the water

Photo: Dr. Manu Madhok,

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Every summer, we read and hear about children who die due to accidental drowning. Sadly, this summer has been no exception in Minnesota.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most drownings among children ages 1 to 4 occur in the pool at home. Drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes among children 1 to 14.

While drowning is a tragedy, it’s one that can be prevented. I’ve compiled a list of tips I commonly share with parents and caregivers to make sure their kids are safe in and near the water.

Children ages 1-5

A common misconception is that kids only drown in deep water. A child can actually drown in only a few inches of water.

  1. Always keep children within arm’s reach.
  2. Inflatable aids are not substitutes for adult supervision.
  3. Enforce pool safety rules. That means no running or pushing.

Children ages 5-12

  1. Don’t allow horseplay.
  2. Make sure your child never swims alone and is always within view of an adult.
  3. Children should receive swimming lessons from a qualified instructor.

Open water

  1. Never allow a child to dive in without first checking the depth.
  2. Choose a swimming area that is under a lifeguard’s supervision.
  3. A child should always wear a life jacket while riding in a boat.

Backyard pool

  1. The pool needs to have a 4-foot tall fence surrounding it on all sides.
  2. Use a rigid cover for the pool.
  3. Install complaint, anti-entrapment drain covers.
  4. Pool owners should know CPR.

While kids are our thing at Children’s, we prefer to see them healthy and not to see them in the Emergency Department. Follow these tips so your child doesn’t become a statistic this summer. For more information about injury prevention, please visit our Making Safe Simple website.

For additional resources:

Minnesota Department of Health swimming pool links

Minnesota Department of Health injury data

Centers for Disease Control unintentional drowning data

Water Safety and Young Children

Water Safety for Older Children

Summer Safety Tips – Sun and Water Safety

This is a blog post by Dr. Manu Madhok, director of the pediatric emergency medicine fellowship program at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. He’s a board member of the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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