Water Safety, Swimming Lessons and Breath Holding

With summer in full swing we want to send a few reminders about keeping your kids safe in the water and helpful hints regarding swimming lessons.

Water Safety

Backyard Pool Considerations

               All pools should be surrounded by a fence that is at least 4 feet high, and has a self closing gate with a latch that children cannot reach. There should be nothing the child can use to climb the fence or climb underneath it to get to the pool. Some families may consider putting an alarm on any fence or door that goes out to the pool.  

               Be sure there is safety equipment near the pool; a shepherd’s hook and life preserver are both important.  Also ensure that the drains are all covered properly, as uncovered drain and suction can trap children underwater.

Close supervision

The best way to prevent drowning is close supervision of children in and near any water. An adult should always be within arms reach of a child. This is often referred to as ‘touch supervision’. No child should be near any water alone. Teach your children the rules at the pool and that they must always have an adult with them and never swim alone. Ideally, someone supervising children will also know CPR.

 Life Jackets

               This article from has great information about life jackets. There are a lot of different types and choosing the right one can be confusing. The most important thing is that the life jacket is approved by the US Coast Guard, fits your child well, and is used for the correct activity.

               There are important things to teach your kids about life jackets as well. Teach them to put their own life jackets once old enough and be sure they are comfortable wearing it. The life jacket should be the right size and not loose, as this can be dangerous.  Also be sure kids know that inflatable toys are not a substitute for life jackets. Lastly, life jackets are not a substitute for adult supervision.

               Read this article for more infomation:

 Signs of Drowning

It can often be very difficult to spot someone drowning, as the signs can be very subtle. Read through this list from for the signs that may indicate someone is in trouble in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with the mouth open
  • Glassy eyes that aren’t focusing or closed eyes
  • Hair covering forehead or eyes
  • Not using their legs – being vertical in the water
  • Gasping or hyperventilating
  • Trying to swim a certain direction but not going anywhere
  • Trying to roll over onto their back
  • Appear to be climbing a ladder

Swimming Lessons

While there are many swimming programs for infants, the AAP does not currently recommend infants under 1 year old take swimming lessons. This is due to the cognitive and physical abilities of young children.  Research has shown that these programs do not lower the risk of drowning in young children. If parents choose to participate in these classes, it is important to know that they should be within arms reach of their children in water at all time and these classes do not reduce the risk in drowning. Swimming for infants and toddlers should be used as a fun bonding activity with parents and children.

               Once most children reach age 4, they are able to cognitively understand swimming lessons and have the muscle control to swim properly.  Some are able to when they are younger than 4, and others are not ready until they are a bit older. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have specific questions about your child’s developmental ability to start swimming lessons.

               Be sure to look for swimming lessons that emphasize safety and teach children how to act near water, they should always be closely supervised by an adult the entire time during their swimming lesson. Children learn best when the lessons are developmentally appropriate, there is a lot of positive reinforcement, and the lessons are fun!

Breath holding

  It is common for children to compete with one another to see how long they can hold their breath underwater. They also compete with themselves to see how far the can swim underwater or how long they can hold their breath. This is a very dangerous game and it is important to discuss the dangers with your kids.

               Breath holding can cause drowning or near drowning. Most people hyperventilate before going underwater to try to hold their breath longer, which causes a decrease of carbon dioxide in the body. Carbon dioxide levels are what drives the desire to breath, as CO2 levels rise it triggers the need to take a breath.  Decreasing this amount in the blood by hyperventilating before going underwater can decrease the breathing drive which can cause blackouts or loss of consciousness. If the child is underwater when this happens, this can cause drowning, especially if they are alone or not being supervised.  This can happen in older children who are strong swimmers, and may not be supervised by an adult. Remind your kids to not swim alone.


As always this blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Please talk to your child’s provider with any additional questions you have.