“Ten” Teen Water Safety Tips

Joseph R. Anticaglia MD
Medical Advisory Board

According to the CDC, “Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning in the United States. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.” About two out of ten people who die are children 14 and younger.

“Don’t worry Mom, we’ll be all right.” Fourteen year old Kaitlyn opened the door and continued on her way to enjoy a day of swimming and boating with her teenage friends.

As Kaitlyn was walking away her mother shouted, “Remember — wear the life jacket!” Standing at the door, Mom’s thoughts flashed back to Kaitlyn at 13 months, splashing in the pool, later taking swimming lessons at the YMCA, participating in swimming competitions as a 9 and 10year old. Yet, you never know.

Many teenagers overestimate their abilities when they’re around water, especially during the summer. They might give in to peer pressure and do foolish things. By disregarding common sense rules while on or in the water, teenagers can do harm to themselves and others.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations have published recommendations about water safety for teenagers. Below is a summary and paraphrasing of some of their suggestions.

5 Swimming Safety Tips

  • Encourage your teen to become skilled at swimming, diving and knowledgeable about water safety.
  • Swim with a friend. Drowning risk increases in lakes, ponds and rivers. Swim in safe areas only. Pay attention to “No Swimming” or “No Diving” signs. Listen to lifeguard on duty.
  • Initially enter the water feet first to gauge the depth of the water and to minimize the likelihood of head and neck injuries
  • Don’t drink alcohol and swim if you’re on or in the water. It’s unsafe and illegal to purchase alcohol under the age of 21 in the United States.
  • Don’t dive in shallow water.

A horrible accident reported in a newspaper occurred when a young man sprinted into the ocean water and did a back-flip. He miscalculated the depth of the water and his head smashed into the sand. He fractured the bones in his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down. What a gut wrenching, life changing disaster.

5 Boating Water Safety Tips

  • Wear an approved, proper fitting life jacket when boating or jet skiing.
  • Learn CPR and how to respond to a drowning emergency.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Never swim in a marina. The water is an electric booby trap if the boats are connected to shore power.

It’s natural for parents to worry about their teenager when they’re on or in water with friends. Kaitlyn’s Mom works in the emergency department and knows first-hand that about half of drowning victims need hospitalization. She also knows that those who leave the hospital may be left with severe brain damage causing long-term disabilities.

Don’t be discouraged by your teenager’s nonchalance about water safety. Having educated them on how to prevent and deal with water emergencies, they’ll know how to take the proper precautions and make the right decisions.

When Kaitlyn returned home that afternoon, her Mom asked,

“How was your day?”

“Great! And look at what we can have for supper tonight,” as she proudly unwrapped her catch of the day, a 3 ¼ pound red snapper. “Mr. Warrington, the Captain of the boat, helped me wrap it in ice.”


  1. Water Safety for Teens; American Academy of Pediatrics; 3/15/2019
  2. Swim Lesson. When to Start and What Parents Should Know; American Academy of Pediatrics; 3/15/2019
  3. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Statistics Query and Reporting System; May 3, 2012; Available from: URL: http://www. cdc. gov/injury/wisqars
  4. Cummings P, Quan L. Trends in Unintentional Drowning: The Role of Alcohol and Medical Care. JAMA, 1999; 281(23):2198-2202.

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.