What Should I Do if My Child Slips under the Water?

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If you're going to have fun in the sun with your little ones this season, makes sure you know how to prevent drowning and what to do if—despite your best efforts—there's a water emergency. You need to have a plan of action ready to go in seconds, whether you're alerting a lifeguard or going to the hospital.

Water safety for kids starts with proactive measures and swift response to water emergencies. People—especially kids and babies—can drown in just 2 inches of water in a matter of minutes.1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 3,900 people accidentally drown each year in America. And it's the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children ages 1 to 14.2 That’s why water safety for kids is so important.

Follow these measures, both reactive and proactive, to save your child if they slip underwater and to reduce the likelihood of such an incident altogether.

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Reacting: What to do if your child goes underwater in distress

Keeping a watchful eye on your kids when they’re in the bath, at the pool, or near any body of water will prevent your child from slipping underwater undetected.

But if they do slip underwater, remember the following tips:

1. Alert a lifeguard

If there's a lifeguard on duty, alert them immediately. Lifeguards have the training to rescue children from the water quickly and effectively. A lifeguard can also administer CPR if necessary.

2. Act quickly

If there aren’t any certified lifeguards on duty, spring into action. Call to a parent or another child who’s closest to where your child went under, or get in there yourself.

Once you pull your child out, see if they’re conscious and breathing. If they’re coughing, give them a few good pats on the back to help them clear water from their lungs. If they aren’t breathing, call 911.

3. Go to the hospital

Delayed drowning issues, like secondary and dry drowning, can affect babies and children after rescue—even if the kids seem completely normal.3 Call your doctor after any incident to ensure your kids are safe, and take them to the hospital if anything seems amiss.

Prevention: How to protect your child from drowning hazards

It takes minutes for a child to lose consciousness underwater—less for an infant. Because these situations happen so fast, prevention is the best route.

Here’s how to keep your child out of danger in the water:

1. Stay close and keep an eye on them

Accompany your children in the water, and stay by their side. This makes it easier for you to grab them if they need help. 

If you have a pool and are worried about your kids getting in when you're not home, consider an outdoor security camera, like Vivint's Outdoor Camera Pro. It has a Pool Alert sensor that uses motion detection to spot when someone enters your swimming pool, which can help prevent accidental drownings. It works with Smart Sentry technology, which makes a loud chime when it senses movement, to alert your kids to stay out of the water without an adult present.

Professionally Installed Outdoor Camera
Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro (Gen 2)

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

2. Take a water safety course

Drowning—especially with kids and babies—isn’t necessarily theatrical. Taking a water safety course can help you recognize the signs of a child struggling in the water.

3. Invest in a water-resistant kids GPS tracker

Select models of kids gps trackers allow you to set location boundaries, around your pool for instance, and can alert you when a child crosses that line. It may take some time to set up, but your children’s safety is more than worth it.

AngelSense kids GPS tracker was created to help protect children with disabilities such as autism, but it works to help protect any little ones.

AngelSense is one of the best gps trackers for kids, and adds an extra layer of protection to keep kids safe around the water. To make the devices fully waterproof, AngelSense has both removable and non-removable waterproof pouches available.

Read the full AngelSense review to learn more.

Best water-resistant kids gps tracker
AngelSense GPS Tracker
$99 device (sale) + $44.99
pro Two-way calling and listen-in feature
pro Location updates
pro Transit alerts, including speed and ETA

4. Learn CPR

If your child’s heart stops in a near-drowning incident, it’s critical to administer CPR immediately. Most local fire, health, and police departments offer free CPR training courses, or you can look up American Heart Association training centers and courses near you.

5. Sign up your kids for swimming lessons

Children as young as 12 months may begin swimming lessons immediately. One study reports that formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88%.4 Search the local YMCA or your town events for swimming programs, and sign your kids up.

6. Restrict swimming after eating

Kids have fast metabolisms, but swimming right after eating may lead to cramps and drowning. Play it safe and keep your kids out of the water for 30–60 minutes after a meal.

7. Kids shouldn't swim in cold water too long

When the body drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, brain functions and muscle responses become slower. Have your kids take lots of breaks outside of the water to help their bodies regulate temperature if the water is close to 70 degrees.

8. Beware of currents

Riptides and rip currents are strong forces beneath the surface of the ocean that pull water—and anything that’s in it—away from shore. Always read the surf report before heading to the beach, and never let kids go in the water in dangerous conditions.

9. Teach your kids about water safety

If your kids are two and older, start talking about water safety. Make sure your children know never to swim without an adult, and tell them not to go near the pool without supervision. Consider enrolling your baby in an infant self-rescue class to teach them to roll on their back and float.

10. Get a toilet lock

Curious kids who fall face-first into the toilet bowl are also at risk of drowning. Install a toilet lock when baby-proofing your home.

Final word

Above all, try to stay aware and watchful whenever your children play in water.


  1. Sarah K Romero, MD., Nemours Kids Health, "Water Safety," May 2019. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts.” Accessed June 20, 2022.
  3. Jenn Sinrich, What to Expect, "Child Drowning," June 2022. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  4. Ruth A. Brenner, Gitanjali Saluja Taneja, Denise L. Haynie, Ann C. Trumble, Cong Qian, Ron M. Klinger, Mark A. Klebanoff, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “Association between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood: A Case-Control Study,” March 2009. Accessed June 20, 2022.
John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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