May is National Water Safety Month: a critical reminder of the value of water safety for everyone. With summer around the corner, we want to remind you the importance equipping children with essential water safety skills. Before hitting the pool, you should understand the facts about drowning and how to prevent it.

Know the Facts

The YMCA is taking a stand against childhood drowning. The facts are grim, but together, if we understand the risk, we can all do our part to prevent drowning in our community. Make sure to stay informed and take steps needed to keep your family safe.

  • Two children die every day because of drowning.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old and is the second leading cause of death for children from 5 to 14 years old.
  • Research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children 1 to 4 years of age.
  • According to a national research study conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation with the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 60 percent of African American children and 45 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim compared to 40 percent of Caucasian children.
  • 79 percent of children in families with household income less than $50,000 have no/low swimming ability.
  • Boys are 68% more likely to drown in a pool than girls
  • 2/3 of fatal drownings occur May through August for most ages groups
  • Backyard swimming pools account for over half of the 54 drowning deaths for children 0 – 5 years old each year.
  • There are no warnings sounds associated with a drowning incident. 

Prevent Drowning

You can prevent drowning. Next time you go take a trip to the pool or bring the family to the beach, arm yourself and your children with these water safety tips.

Never swim alone. Make sure your children to the only swim when a lifeguard is on duty. Teach your children to ask a supervising adult for permission before going in the water. That way the adult supervisor knows when your child is in the water.

Supervise your child when they are in the water. Whether it’s bath time or taking a dip in a pool or lake, make sure your children are within arm’s reach at all times.

Don’t engage in breath-holding activities. Children shouldn’t hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time while swimming, as this can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side-effects.

Wear a life jacket. Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Don’t jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water. If a child finds their friend in deep water unexpectedly, their natural reaction may be to jump in the water to try to save them. Even if a child is a great swimmer, a panicked person will overpower them, pulling them underwater with them. The YMCA’s Safety Around Water program teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for them and pull them to safety. By using this technique, children can help their friend without compromising their own safety. 

Enroll children in water safety or swim lessons. Just like teaching a child to look both ways before they cross the street, formal water safety lessons teach them an important life skill. The YMCA’s Swim Lessons instill children with fundamental water safety skills and tools that will help them have fun in the pool safely and know what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly. Learning how to swim also has multiple benefits beyond the ability to enjoy the water safely. It helps children strive for physical achievement, promotes healthy living and builds their confidence. Children enrolled in YMCA classes learn to love the water and develop a confidence in themselves that carries beyond the pool. Swim lessons become something to look forward to after the school day or on the weekend. Some kids even go on to join swim team after a few lessons.

How the YMCA Has Helped

For over 100 years, the YMCA has taught children nationwide how to swim and water safety in order to keep communities safe from drowning. The YMCA also offers CPR and first aid to teach people how to handle emergencies and life-threatening situations. The YMCA offers scholarships to families who couldn’t otherwise afford swim lessons. Additionally, the YMCA works with local schools to teach Third Graders how to swim for free!

The YMCA also offers swim lessons for all ages. This summer on June 21, all YMCAs in the Camarillo, Ventura, Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Santa Ynez Communities will participate in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (click here to see 2017’s World’s Largest Swim Lesson). The YMCA also hosts Water Safety Workshops and classes to train future swim instructors and lifeguards.

To learn more about YMCA swim programs, visit our activities page, find your local branch, and check out our swim lesson offerings.


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