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Use "layers" to keep everyone safe in the water

| Safety | Healthy You

Two young boys swimming in a lake

Lakes, rivers and the beach can keep you cool. Just keep these key tips in mind to stay safe.

When temperatures rise, families look for ways to beat the heat.
“Whether we’re cooling off in a wading pool in our own backyard or heading to local lakes or rivers, it’s essential that we know how to keep our children and teens safe,” said Dr. Angela Zallen, co-chair of Safe Kids West Oregon, a nonprofit child safety advocacy organization. She also is a pediatric hospitalist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.
Nationwide, drowning is the single leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and it’s one of the top causes of death for teens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
“In the COVID-19 pandemic, children are spending more time at home around pools, bathtubs and other drowning risks, and their caregivers may be trying to juggle caretaking with work or other responsibilities,” Dr. Zallen said.
“Also, fewer opportunities to swim in pools this summer may mean more time swimming in open bodies of water with hazards like cold temperatures, dangerous currents, sudden drop-offs, and rocks, stumps or other underwater debris.” 
To help keep everyone safe around water, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
  • Learn to swim. All children and adults should learn to swim. If swim lessons in your area have been suspended because of COVID-19, it’s important to focus on other "layers of protection" until your child can access lessons.
  • Keep constant, attentive supervision around water. The younger the child, the more attentive you need to be.  
  • Assign an adult “water watcher.” This person should avoid being distracted by work, socializing or chores.
  • Keep little ones within arm's length. When infants or toddlers are in or around the water, a supervising adult with swimming skills should be within an arm’s length, providing constant “touch supervision.”

In and around the house:

  • Empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. Even small amounts of water can be lethal to little ones.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed if you have young children. Do not leave them alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks can prevent drowning of toddlers.


  • Secure the swimming pool. Pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence, with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Research shows pool fencing can reduce drowning risk by half. Install additional barriers such door locks, window locks, pool covers and pool alarms.

  • Learn CPR. Adults and older children should know this lifesaving skill.

  • Wear a life jacket. Everyone--children and adults--should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they’re in open water, or on watercraft.

  • Be careful about alcohol. Parents and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increases the risk of drowning while swimming or boating.