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State reminds parents, caregivers to keep children safe around water

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) posted a reminder Tuesday, June 4, to parents and caregivers of the importance of always supervising children when they are in or near water to avoid the tragedy of accidental drowning deaths.

In 2023, 20 Illinois children lost their lives to accidental drowning: eight in pools, four in bathtubs, four in lakes, two in ponds, one in a washing machine and one at a water park. Thirteen of the children were age 5 and younger; including six of the children who drowned in pools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14. 

For every child who dies from drowning, another seven receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries.

“Summer is just getting started, and soon families will be outside enjoying pool parties, weekends at the lake or waterpark and splashing with their toddlers in backyard baby pools,” said Illinois DCFS Director Heidi E. Mueller. “A child can drown in as little as one inch of water and in as little as 20 seconds. In the time it takes a caregiver to answer a text, turn their back to talk to a loved one or go inside to get a towel, a fun outing can turn deadly. 

“It is extremely important for adults to actively watch children any time they are in or near water to prevent a tragedy. A great tip is to practice ‘reach supervision,’ meaning an adult is always close enough to touch a child when they are in the water. Let’s keep our kids safe this summer by taking steps to get water wise and supervise!”

Follow these safety tips to help protect children and prevent water-related tragedy:

Bathrooms

  • Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub or rely on a bathtub seat for safety.
  • Secure the toilet lid. Curious toddlers could tip headfirst into a toilet, risking drowning.
  • Don’t allow children to play alone in the bathroom.

Buckets

  • Five-gallon buckets commonly used for household home-improvement projects pose a threat to babies and toddlers who may topple into them and be unable to get out.
  • Empty and store all buckets out of children’s reach when not in use.

Portable or inflatable pools

  • Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of the shallowness of baby pools. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water.
  • Empty the pool immediately after use and store it upside-down.

Swimming pools and hot tubs

  • Keep ladders, patio furniture and toys away from above-ground pools.
  • Install a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around all pools and spas.
  • Keep the pool and deck clear of floats, balls and toys after you leave the pool.
  • Young children can wear personal flotation devices, but do not be lured into thinking these are able to prevent drownings.
  • Keep hot tubs securely covered when not in use. Children should not be left in a hot tub alone.
  • Appoint an adult who can swim to always watch children when they are in the pool.
  • Learn CPR and keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool. The American Red Cross offers online CPR training classes anyone can take at their own pace from the convenience of home.

Ponds, fountains and retention ponds

  • Be aware of access to water hazards in your yard and neighborhood. If a child goes missing, check these areas first.

For more information and water safety resources, including posters, brochures and a coloring book for children, visit the DCFS website.

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