Disparities in U.S. Childhood and Adolescent Drowning Deaths

Every year in the U.S., nearly 900 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 die from unintentional drowning. This infographic highlights disparities in drowning deaths, risk factors that affect all children and adolescents, and a multilayered approach to drowning prevention.

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Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children ages 1-4. For children and adolescents ages 5-19, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury deaths.

Every year in the U.S., approximately 3,700 people die from unintentional drowning. Nearly 900 of them are children and adolescents ages 0 to 19.1


Drowning is responsible for more than 1 in 10 unintentional injury deaths in children and adolescents.1

Overall boys are at higher risk for drowning, with more than twice the death rate of girls (6 per 1,000,000 for girls versus 15.6 for boys).1

Rates of drowning deaths are higher for Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) children and adolescents than their White, Asian/Pacific Islander or Hispanic counterparts.1

Rates of Drowning Deaths by Race/Ethnicity1

Rate per 1,000,000, U.S. 2015-2018

Race/Ethnicity Rate Per 1,000,000


Black 17.7
Asian/Pacific Islander 8.8
American Indian/Alaskan Native 14.1
Hispanic 8.3


Children and adolescents in the South generally have higher rates of drowning deaths compared to those in other U.S.


Drowning Rates by State among Children and Adolescents Ages 0-191

Rate per 1,000,000, U.S. 2013-2018

Map of US showing Crude Rate for each state based on the following scale:




14.9 -22.0


Annualized Crude Rate for U.S.: 1.1 per 1,000,000

Risk Factors2

  • Lack of swimming ability
  • Lack of barriers controlling access to water
  • Lack of close supervision
  • Proximity to body of water (swimming
  • pools, lakes, rivers or ocean)
  • Failure to wear life jackets
  • Use of alcohol
  • Seizure disorders


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that drowning prevention should be a multilayered approach.3

Key recommendations are:

  1. Babies can drown in as little as an inch of water.4 Remove water from tubs, buckets, and kiddie pools after use and store them upside down.5
  2. Pools should have a 4 ft high,4-sided fence with self-closing, self-latching gates.2
  3. Children and adolescents should learn basic swim skills, including floating and moving through the water.2 Every child is different - enroll your child in lessons when they are ready.4
  4. Supervise children and teens when in and around water - supervision must be close, constant, and attentive.6


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). CDC WISQARS 2015-2018. Retrieved June 16, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts. Retrieved September 18, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/watersafety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). Prevention of Drowning. Retrieved September 18, 2020 from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/143/5/e20190850
  4. Safe Kids Worldwide. (2020). Water Safety for Babies. Retrieved September 18, 2020 from https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_age/babies-0%E2%80%9312-months/field_risks/water-and-drowning
  5. Safe Kids Worldwide. (2020). Water Safety for Home. Retrieved September 18, 2020 from https://www.safekids.org/watersafety
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). Water Safety for Teens. Retrieved September 18, 2020 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safetyfor-Older-Children.aspx