Drowning is a major cause of death for children. Most drownings and near-drownings involve a short lapse in supervision. When a child drowns, it is quick and silent. The child loses consciousness in two minutes. Children can drown in small amounts of water, for example, in bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and wading pools, as well as swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.Children under age one most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, or toilets.

Alcohol use is involved in about 25% to 50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Alcohol influences balance, coordination, and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.

Massachusetts Statistics

  • In 2005 there were 74 drowning deaths and a combined total of 187 inpatient hospitalizations, observation stays and emergency department visits for nonfatal submersion-related injuries among MA residents.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 1-4 years of age in Massachusetts.

Prevention Tips

Water Safety Tips

  • Do not swim alone, even if you are a very good swimmer.
  • Do not swim during a storm or when there is lightning.
  • Do not dive or jump into water that is not at least 12 feet deep.
  • Teach your child how to swim.
  • Even if your child knows how to swim, always watch children closely when they are in or near water. This means ponds, lakes, rivers, oceans, and pools. It also means spas, toilets, and bathtubs.
  • Teach your child to never run, push, or jump on others in or around water.
  • Do not let your child swim in an area with strong moving currents in the water.
  • If you have a pool, there should be a 4-foot fence around it.
  • Be ready for an emergency by learning CPR. Always keep a telephone and emergency numbers with you.

Boating Safety

  • Learn swimming and boating skills.
  • Wear a comfortable and properly fitted life jacket.
  • Watch the weather to prepare for storms. Because water conducts electricity, get off the boat and onto land if you see or hear a storm.
  • Tell a family member or friend your boating trip plan in case of emergency. Tell them who is going on the boat, where you are going, and how long you will be gone.
  • Never operate a boat while drinking alcohol or soon afterward.

Related Links

For More Information

To learn more about water safety, please contact us.


This information is provided by the Injury Prevention and Control Program within the Department of Public Health.