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Summer Tips From Nurses: Pool and Water Safety

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated October 3, 2023
    Summer time offers fun in the sun, but caution by the pool is essential. Pediatric nurses offer seven pool and water safety tips for caregivers.
    Credit: Getty Images

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    Even small buckets of water can be dangerous for young children and toddlers. Five-gallon buckets or larger present a hazard for small children. When young children’s curiosity leads them to an indoor or outdoor bucket, they can topple into it. Young children are unable to free themselves and can drown.

    Christine Russo is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner who works with the pediatric trauma program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. She recognizes the many ways that children can get into trouble around swimming pools and other bodies of water.

    1. 1

      Wear Bright Colors

      Children should wear neon and brightly colored bathing suits since these colors are easier to spot in the water, which can help prevent a fatal drowning.

    2. 2

      Designate a ‘Water Watcher’

      During parties and large group gatherings, assign a “water watcher” who is designated to watch the water at all times. A water watcher must not get distracted. If they need to use the bathroom or eat, the role should be handed off to someone else.

      Water watchers should be relieved from their duties when they find it difficult to stay alert. Consider assigning shorter shifts to avoid this problem.

    3. 3

      Check Bodies of Water

      If a child goes missing, always check the nearest body of water first. This helps locate a child who is at risk for drowning injury as soon as possible.

    4. 4

      Avoid Inflatable Swimming Aids for Young Children

      Using inflatable swimming aids for young children can instill a false sense of security in the children and caregiver. When these inflatable swimming aids are used, a caregiver should be within arm’s reach of the child at all times. This is what’s called “touch supervision.”

    5. 5

      Supervision is Key

      Children should be supervised around bodies of water at all times. Trade out times of being the designated water watcher to ensure there are eyes on swimming children while caregivers socialize and take a break.

    6. 6

      Consider Swimming Lessons

      The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that formal swimming lessons are an effective way of reducing the risk of drowning in children.

    7. 7

      Make Sure Pool Access Is Properly Restricted

      Pools and other bodies of water should also have physical barriers that prevent young children’s access. These fences should be at least 4 feet high with slots that are less than 4 inches apart.

      Consider installing pool alarms and fences with self-closing latches that are at least 54 inches off the ground.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Christine Russo, MSN, CPNP-PC, CPEN, TCRN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Stony Brook Childrens Hospital

    Christine Russo, MSN, CPNP-PC, CPEN, TCRN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Stony Brook Childrens Hospital

    Christine Russo discovered her love for pediatrics in the emergency department at Stony Brook University Hospital. She became a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner in 2021 and works with the pediatric trauma program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and as an NP at a local primary care office.


    Portrait of Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D.

    Jenna Liphart Rhoads, Ph.D.

    Jenna Liphart Rhoads is a nurse educator and freelance author/editor. She earned a BSN from Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing and a master’s in nursing education from Northern Illinois University. Liphart Rhoads earned a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in nursing education from Capella University. Her clinical background includes surgical-trauma adult critical care, interventional radiology procedures, and conscious sedation in adult and pediatric populations. Liphart Rhoads has taught in traditional BSN, RN-BSN, and graduate nursing programs in Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin.