Summer Water Safety Tips from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Child approaching water with no life vest on.

With summer finally here and temperatures climbing, families are heading outdoors to enjoy activities like swimming and boating.  While most parents know that it’s important to put sunscreen on their child, how many know what to do if their child’s heart has stopped from being submerged under water? Knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), can save their life.
“The single most effective strategy to improve outcomes of childhood drowning is to start CPR as soon as a child is rescued from the water—even before emergency medical services arrive,” said Megan McMahon, MSN, APRN, at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD).  “CPR must begin within minutes of drowning to prevent brain injury and death. Children are more likely to survive if bystanders initiate rescue breathing, chest compressions and call 911 right away. The best preparation is for parents, caregivers and older siblings to learn CPR and be ready to use those skills in an emergency.”
Drowning is a leading cause of death from unintentional injury in children. Each year, approximately 1,000 children fatally drown, with the majority happening from May through August. Children from 0 to 4 years of age have the highest rates and children with seizure disorders, heart conditions and autism are at a higher risk.
“Of the approximately 18 child fatal drownings each day, there are seven non-fatal drownings that require emergency care,” shares McMahon. “Over the past five years, we’ve seen fatal child drownings increase more than by half due to a gap in adult supervision.”
Now more than ever, with COVID-19 keeping families at home, summer camps and public pools closed, and swimming lessons canceled, it’s important that parents and other caregivers are vigilant about water safety.
The Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock offers these tips to keep your children safe around water:

  • Teach kids how to swim in both pools and open water. Learning to swim helps children feel more comfortable and safe around water. Also, swimming in open water is different than swimming in pools given the currents, cold temperature, unknown depth and limited visibility.
  • Choose to swim in public places that have a lifeguard on duty at all times.
  • There should always be a designated “watcher” who is engaged and alert. Avoid distractions such as paying attention to your phone. For younger children, an adult should stay close enough to quickly pull a child above the water.
  • Make sure that all children on watercraft (boat, Jet Ski, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard) are fitted with a lifejacket no matter how confident you are in their swimming skills.
  • Families with backyard pools are encouraged to have four-sided fences around the pool to prevent children from entering without an adult knowing.
  • Take a CPR class. Having this skill can help in a drowning emergency. Early CPR increases the chances of a child surviving a drowning.

For more information about keeping your children safe this summer, visit

About Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across northern New England. D-HH provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named again in 2020 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 9 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-HH system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.