Be WATER Aware, Even When It’s Not In Sight


If you notice your child is not where you just saw them playing, check the water first.

According to the American Red Cross, 69% of young children who are found drowned or submerged in swimming pools were not expected to be in or at the pool.

While we live in a popular swimming destination surrounded by water, some sources of water are not top of mind, including buckets, toilets, bathtubs and ponds surrounding our children every day.

USF Health pediatrician, Dr. Lana Soylu, talks about water safety with parents as part of regular checkups. She covers the basics about pool safety fences, parental supervision and essential water safety tips for parents with young children.

  • Supervise your child in the bathtub. Do not leave your child alone or unattended in the bathtub.
  • Keep the toilet seat down or better yet purchase a toilet safety lock.
  • Empty buckets and lock doors offering access to ponds/bodies of water near your property.

The Safety Threat is real, especially in Florida

Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children under the age of 4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Florida leads the nation in drownings for children under the age of 5 according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. There have been 88 drownings in 2018 and 25 drownings in 2019 for the state of Florida.
  • In Hillsborough County, there were 11 drownings in 2018 and 3 drownings in 2019 to date. In 2018, 10 out of 11 drownings in Hillsborough County were children under the age of 4. These drownings occurred tragically in nearby ponds, pools and bathtubs.

Awareness of how quick this can happen

It only takes 20-60 seconds for a child to start drowning.

In five minutes, your child can incur permanent neurological damage from oxygen deprivation.

It’s that quick and it’s that devastating.

“Results of drowning can range from no symptoms, returning to daily life to a serious neurologic condition or death. Many children who have survived a drowning will require intensive medical care, including tube feedings, therapies, and multiple medications. This intensive care can be devastating to both the child and their family,” Dr. Soylu said.

Prevention – Supervision

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) not only reinforces Dr. Soylu’s recommendations but also offers more tips:

  • Parents and caregivers should never leave children alone or in the care of another child while in or near bathtubs, pools, spas, or other open water.
  • Adults should empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use.
  • Do not leave young children alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks can prevent drowning of toddlers.
  • When infants or toddlers are in or around the water, a supervising adult with swimming skills should be within an arm’s length, providing constant “touch supervision.”
  • Even with older children and better swimmers, the supervising adult should focus on the child and not engage with other distracting activities.

Prevention – Swim Lessons

“Taking swim lessons and water safety awareness cannot alone prevent drownings, but research shows that swim lessons can make a big difference, starting as early as one years old,” Dr. Soylu said.

For some kids in Tampa Bay, it’s more difficult to get swim lessons due to proximity to a swim safety program or the cost involved in taking these classes. Several Tampa Bay organizations have developed programs to remove these barriers to prevent drownings by providing free water safety courses and even mobile programs for apartment and community pools.

FREE Swim Lessons

The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County has developed a mobile swim lesson and water safety education program to help children take advantage of these lifesaving classes. The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, in partnership with Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center, provides certified lifeguards and swim instructors for a mobile swim lesson program to apartment complexes and neighborhood associations. These free programs are designed to develop water safety skills both in and out of the water for children ages 3-14.

If your community is interested in hosting a Children’s Board Mobile Swim Lesson and Education program, contact Chris Alaynick, Director of Mobile Swim at or by calling (813)224-9622, ext. 1292. If your community pool is located in Brandon, Valrico, and Riverview, contact at Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center.

In addition, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg with Florida Blue’s generous support is offering a Safety Around Water program that provides free water safety courses at their facilities in August.  For information on Safety Around Water programs, go to Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA or YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg to find out more.

“Awareness of how quickly a drowning can happen is important for parents to know to keep young children safe in Tampa Bay. We are encouraging parents to take advantage of free local swim lesson programs this summer. We are also reminding parents to have children wear a life jacket at all times when enjoying water leisure activities such as boating,“ Dr. Soylu said.

If you have health concerns about your child, contact our team of USF Health pediatricians at (813) 259-8700.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers

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