Courtesy photo.

By: Christopher J Babbitt, M.D., medical director, Cherese Mari Laulhere Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach

During the time it takes to reply to a text, retrieve a toy from the water, or glance at a passing boat, a child could face the danger of drowning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more children ages 1 – 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death, since young children can drown in even in the smallest amount of water.

With the soon to be summer break, rising temperatures and increased outdoor water activities for children, the risk of drowning escalates. It’s crucial to recognize that drownings can be prevented, and it’s essential for everyone to be aware of life-saving measures.

Simple Ways to Prevent Drownings:

  • Always Supervise Kids: Instruct children to seek permission before approaching water. Designate a responsible adult to supervise them at all times, maintaining constant visual contact, no matter how shallow the water is. Never rely on another child for supervision, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
  • Wear a Life Jacket: Children should always wear a life jacket when they’re in or around water or riding on any watercraft. California law requires every child under 13 on a moving recreational vessel to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Even if your child can swim, unpredictable water conditions can pose risks. A life jacket will help keep their head above water. Remember, never fully depend on a flotation device to protect your child if you step away or are distracted. Water rings, foam pool noodles, inflatable toys or other items designed for water recreation are not a replacement of adult supervision.
  • Install Barriers and Drain Covers: Whether your family owns an in-ground or above-ground pool, it’s important that fences are installed around the pool to prevent unsupervised children from entering. Make sure the pool you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards to avoid entrapments.
  • Swimming Lessons: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning for children starting at the age of 1. Swimming lessons can help children learn basic water survival skills, such as floating, getting a breath, treading water, changing position and getting to an exit point. Every family member, regardless of age, must achieve these survival skills of water competency. For those seeking affordable options, visit, to find free or affordable swimming lessons.
  • Learn CPR: Knowing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can help save a life in the event of a drowning. With CPR skills in hand, parents can approach water activities with confidence, knowing they have the knowledge to respond effectively in emergencies and protect their loved ones. Register for a CPR or swimming and water safety class hosted by the American Red Cross.

Another phenomenon, known as “dry drowning,” can happen when children inhale or gulp down water in a state of panic while in water. Although not a medical term, this is known as “post-immersion syndrome,” which occurs after taking in water. The muscles in the windpipe can become constrained and though it’s rare, it does happen. Dry drowning develops over minutes to hours after inhaling water following the initial incident.

Symptoms of Dry Drowning:

  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Persistent coughing
  • Irritability, forgetfulness or other unusual behavior
  • Sudden fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting

Call 911 immediately if a drowning victim has lost consciousness, stopped breathing and/or has no heartbeat. This summer, make sure your family keeps water safety top of mind and take precautions to avoid accidents. To learn more summer safety tips, please visit or call (562) 933-9151.