Staying at Home During COVID-19, Children’s Drowing Risk May Increase

Staying at Home During COVID-19, Children’s Drowing Risk May Increase

Pediatricians urge families to add extra layers of protection and practice water safety tips to keep children safe around all sources of water in the home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics

is urging parents and other adults to plan multiple layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water this spring and summer.

This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as children spend more time at home with caregivers who may be distracted by work and other responsibilities.


“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. As children are at home more due to social isolation recommendations, they may have more access to pools, bathtubs, and other sources of water – all of which pose a drowning risk,” said pediatrician Ben Hoffman, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention.

“Families may also be visiting lakes, rivers, or other open bodies of water as a way to get outdoors while still maintaining physical distance to reduce the spread of coronavirus. We have to make sure that we plan layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water, wherever they are,” Dr. Hoffman said.

In this video package, AAP offers b-roll to illustrate fencing and other pool barriers, life jackets, and boating safety, swimming lessons, and close supervision.

Dr. Hoffman offers soundbites explaining drowning risks for various ages and demographics, unique considerations during the pandemic, and the steps AAP recommends parents take to keep children safe.  

According to the AAP, the layers of protection should include:

  • All children and adults should learn to swim. If swim lessons are suspended in your area due to coronavirus, it is important to add other layers of protection until your child can access lessons.
  • Close, constant, attentive supervision around water is important. Assign an adult ‘water watcher,’ who should not be distracted by work, socializing, or chores.
  • 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.
  • 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 50%. Additional barriers can include door locks, window locks, pool covers, and pool alarms.
  • Adults and older children should learn CPR.
  • Everyone, children and adults, should wear US Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in open water, or on watercraft.
  • Parents and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increase the risk of drowning while swimming or boating.

“We can’t drown-proof kids, and so planning layers of protection is the best way to protect all children around water,” Dr. Hoffman said.

This year, AAP is continuing its water safety campaign with four new public service announcements describing how to protect toddlers and teens around water.

The PSAs are available in both English and Spanish. AAP is also making available a series of PSAs featuring the first-person stories of Bode and Morgan Miller, and Nicole Hughes, who lost children to drowning and have partnered with AAP to share their stories to help save other children.

For more AAP resources on drowning prevention, visit Note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance on public pools, hot tubs and water parks during COVID-19.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds





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Cynthia Tait

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