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Stay Safe in the Water with Tips from Atrium Health Navicent

More children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause

Summer is in full swing and many families are planning pool parties and trips to the beach. Atrium Health Navicent encourages the community to exercise caution when cooling off in pools and natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and the ocean to reduce drowning risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14. More children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death. In the United States, 11 children die every day as a result of drowning, and even if a child doesn’t die from drowning, it can lead to brain damage and other long-term disabilities.

The most important thing parents can do to help prevent drowning is to teach children how to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children ages 12 months and older learn the basics of swimming (floating and moving through the water) through swimming lessons.

“Swimming is a total body workout, it’s good for you and it’s fun, but you have to be safe,” said Dr. Yameika Head, clinical practice director of Pediatrics at Atrium Health Navicent. “Parents, and anyone else who is near a body of water, or who is supervising children in water, should learn how to swim.”

In addition to learning to swim, here are other ways that parents and others in the community can help prevent drowning:

Learn life-saving skills: Adults and older children should know how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

Fence off swimming pools and other bodies of water near homes: Fencing with self-closing and self-latching gates can help keep children away from water when they aren’t being supervised. AAP research shows pool fencing can reduce drowning risk by 50 percent. Additional barriers can include door locks, window locks, pool covers and pool alarms.

Wear a life jacket: Children and weaker swimmers should wear life jackets in and around pools and other bodies of water – even if they know how to swim. Everyone, including children and adults, should wear US Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in open water or on watercraft. Follow these tips for fitting life jackets:

• Fit is important in keeping a child's head above water, and sizing is based on a child’s weight. Infant life jackets are for children weighing 8 to 30 pounds, child life jackets are for children weighing 30 to 50 pounds and youth life jackets are for those weighing 50 to 90 pounds.

• For infants and small children, a life jacket should have a padded head support to help keep the child’s head above water, a grab handle to assist adults in retrieving the child out of the water and a straddle strap to help keep the life jacket from riding up, or to keep the child from sliding out. The more straps a life jacket has, the more adjustments can be made for sizing accordingly.

• To fit a life jacket, pull all the straps as tight as they can go. Then, slide your fingers above each shoulder and pull up. As long as the jacket is not obstructing the mouth or the nose, it is a good fit. If it comes up over their face, that means you need to tighten the straps more.

Supervise children in water: When children are in or near water (including bathtubs) they should be supervised at all times. Drowning happens quickly and quietly. Adults supervising should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, drinking alcohol and using drugs.

Avoid alcohol: Adults and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increases the risk of drowning while swimming or boating. 

Reduce risks at home: Around the house, empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. If you have young children, keep the bathroom door closed, and use toilet locks to prevent access by young children. For toddlers, some of the biggest drowning risks are in the home, including tubs and toilets.

Make sure where you’re going is safe: Know the depth of the water and what’s on the bottom. If you swing out on a rope swing and don’t realize there are rocks at the bottom, or dive into a pool that’s not deep enough, it could lead to spinal injuries, a concussion or broken bones. If you see a person drowning, call 911 and remove them from the water if you can do so safely. Perform CPR until help arrives.

“If a child goes under, immediately get the attention of others,” Head said. “If one person tries to save the child, and that person gets in trouble, then you have two people in need of saving.”

Anytime someone gets in any kind of trouble in the water, they should seek out medical treatment immediately, even if the individual seems to be OK. For every child under age 18 who dies from drowning, another seven receive emergency department care for nonfatal drowning, which can result in brain damage.

The Pediatric Emergency Center at Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Designed specifically for children and families, the children’s hospital is staffed by board-certified pediatric specialists. Located at 888 Pine St. in Macon, care is available whenever injury or illness occurs.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent is part of Advocate Health, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the fifth-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit

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