Drowning in the sea or swimming pool is a major preventable public health issue.

In the US it is the number one cause of death in children 1-4 years old, happens in seconds and is often silent. Drowning can happen to anyone, anytime there is access to water.

Pathologist Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Theodora Psaltopoulou, summarizes the recommendations of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to minimize possibility of suffocation.

Learn basic swimming and water safety skills. Children who have taken swimming lessons still need close and constant supervision when in or around water.

Supervise closely, when children are in or near water (including the bathtub). The adults who watch children should avoid distracting activities such as reading, using the phone and drinking alcohol. Adults should closely supervise children even when lifeguards are present.

Wear a life jacket. Life jackets reduce the risk of drowning while on a watercraft, for people of all ages and swimming abilities. Life jackets must be used by children for all activities while in and around natural water (sea, lakes, rivers). Life jackets can also be used by weaker swimmers of all ages in the sea and pools.

Always swim with a buddy. Choose swimming locations that have lifeguards when possible. This is especially beneficial for people with seizures or other medical conditions that increase the risk of drowning.

Take extra precautions for medical conditions, such as heart or neurological conditions.

Consider the effects of medications. Avoid swimming if you are taking medications that impair your balance, coordination, or judgment. These side effects increase the risk of choking. Various medications can cause these side effects, such as those used for anxiety or other psychological illnesses.

Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming or other water activities. Alcohol impairs judgement, balance and coordination of movements.

Recognize the specific hazards of each area. There may be dangerous currents or waves, rocks or limited visibility. Check the weather forecast before any activity in, on or near the water. Build fences that completely enclose pools.

Do not try to hold your breath under water for long periods of time. This can cause you to pass out and suffocate from hypoxia.

Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Your CPR skills could save someone’s life in the time it takes for an ambulance to arrive.