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Swimming Safety

Splashing in the water and swimming is a fun activity for children of any age. However, drowning is a leading cause of death in children under age 4. A baby can drown in just an inch of water. Also, children can get sick from germs in the water.

Here are some tips to help keep your child safe around water:

  • You can start getting your baby used to swimming pools when he is 6 months of age or older.
  • Children over 1 year old may enjoy a swimming class. Your child will learn to float and tread water. This can help keep young children safe. Water wings, noodles, and other water toys are fun, but you should not rely on them to keep your child safe.
  • Watch children and never leave them alone around water, including wading pools, swimming pools, spas or hot tubs, ponds, lakes, streams, or any other open water. If you have a backyard pool, make sure it is behind a locked gate, or emptied and upside down so your child can’t get into the water.
  • If a young child is in the water, an adult should also be in the water and close enough to reach the child if needed. Older children who know how to swim should still be supervised by an adult. It’s a good idea to learn CPR in case of accidents.
  • Don't allow children to play near or sit on pool or hot tub drains. Suction from the drain can trap your child underwater.

Rivers, lakes, and the ocean contain germs that may cause sickness. Swimming pools and water parks are usually safer because they use chlorine to kill germs.

If your child swallows water with germs in it, he can get diarrhea that lasts from a few days to several weeks. This diarrhea can be serious, especially for young children. Contact your healthcare provider if your child develops diarrhea after swimming.

Here are some tips to help prevent an illness from contaminated water:

  • Teach your child to try not to get water in their mouth while they swim.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after changing diapers. Germs on hands and bottoms can end up everywhere, including the water. Teach older children to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before getting back in the water.
  • Don't count on swim diapers or pants to stop your child from having bowel movements that leak into the water. These products are not leakproof. Check diapers or take your child out of the water for a bathroom break often while swimming or playing in the water. Don’t let your child swim if they have diarrhea.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-16
Last reviewed: 2015-01-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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