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This one tip could save your child from drowning

The color of a child's swimsuit could make all the difference

A boy jumps into the sun wearing yellow swim trunks Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby / monkeybusinessimages

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While you’re shopping for your child’s new swimsuits, you’re probably most focused on finding a style they like—emblazoned with action figures or Disney icons. But there is an important factor that you may not be giving enough attention to, and one that significantly factors into water safety: The visibility of the swimsuit, should your child go underwater.

The color of your child’s bathing suit may be more important than you realize. Alive Solutions, a company that specializes in aquatic safety, training, and risk assessment, tested 14 swimsuits in varying colors first in a pool and then in a lake and the results of the test may shock you.

Most swimsuit colors virtually disappear or appear to be a cluster of leaves or debris—not a struggling child—when only 18 inches below the surface of the water. Visibility continues to decrease exponentially with any sort of water agitation, like in a moderately-active swimming pool or water park, or in a lake or ocean with any amount of wave activity.

The tests

multiple images of swimsuits in 13 different colors both on the surface and beneath the surface of pool water
Credit: ALIVE Solutions, Inc.

Bright and contrasting colors are recommended as the safest choice when buying swimwear.

For each test, Alive placed each swimsuit color on the surface of the water. They then submerged the suits and agitated the water, allowing the suits to sink about 18 inches deep—a depth where visibility is crucial for life-saving during water accidents.

Alive then took photos at two additional levels—shore level and then slightly elevated, about dock or boat level—to simulate heights lifeguards or caregivers might be at when searching for a child in the water. The degree to which a swimsuit becomes difficult, if not impossible, to spot varied widely based on its color. Popular swimsuit colors, like blues and greens, almost completely disappeared.

Which colors work best for open water and pools

multiple images of swimsuits in 13 different colors both on the surface and beneath the surface of lake water
Credit: ALIVE Solutions, Inc.

Neon yellow, green, and orange swimsuits were the most visible beneath 18 inches of open water. All other colors disappeared quickly.

In open water, bright, neon colors, including orange, yellow, and lime green, fared best. Pools were a bit more forgiving overall, but it was pointed out by the testers that “although the darker colors show up on a light pool bottom they can often be dismissed for a pile of leaves, dirt, or a shadow so I tend to stay away from those colors when possible.” As for open water, white suits were also cautioned against, as they appeared to be patches of cloud reflections.

The post recommended that, no matter where you plan to swim, opt for bright and contrasting suit colors. Just like a brightly colored outfit can help you find your child in a crowd, Alive found that bright visibility was crucial to identifying a child in a body of water.

The findings also note that it’s important to consider other environmental factors that may impact visibility when packing up for a day of water play, including water clarity, lighting, currents, and the weather. While bright neon colors were the best options overall, it’s interesting to note that some colors, like neon pink, were highly visible in a pool setting but nearly disappeared when tested in a lake. What that means is it’s important to select a suit that provides high visibility in the type of water you plan to visit.

According to the post, “This test also reinforced how important it is in lakes, beaches, rivers, [and] open water environments to keep people on the surface (with life jackets).”

Why this matters

Mother and Son Looking at the View on Pier in Summer, there are boat and sailing boat in the background.
Credit: Getty Images / Onfokus

A brightly colored lifejacket can also help ensure your child's safety.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children: It’s quick, it’s quiet, and it can happen to anyone—even strong swimmers. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools and in open water sites.

But while proper dress will help improve your ability to spot a child in distress, Alive Solutions did caution that shouldn’t be the only water safety measure you take. With child drownings linked to caregiver’s distractions, including the use of cell phones, it’s important to know that brightly colored clothes can’t replace a lack of vigilance with supervision.

The group states: “Remember…the bright and contrasting colors help visibility, but it doesn’t matter what color your kids are wearing if you aren’t supervising effectively and actively watching.”

Tips for keeping kids safe in the water

A group of elementary school children are at the pool. They are smiling and posing for the camera.
Credit: Getty Images / Fatcamera

Make sure to stay on top of annual swim lessons, to make sure your child's skills are consistently up to speed.

Here are some expert tips for upping your kids' safety during water play.

Be close and constant

This goes without saying, but while parents may feel as though they are watching their children, sometimes they aren't watching as closely as they should. Kristi Ladowski, injury prevention and outreach coordinator at Stony Brook Medicine Trauma Center, says that most water-related injuries she sees at her E.R. are when adults were distracted or thought someone else was watching the child.

Supervising adults should be close, constant, and free from distractions. It’s recommended to have a designated “watcher” at all times. That watcher should be free from conversations and any other distractions.

Keep small children within arm's reach

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "touch supervision" for beginning swimmers, meaning the adult should be within an arm's reach of the child so he or she can pull the child out of the water if the child's head becomes submerged.

Invest in swim lessons

While even the strongest swimmers aren’t safe from accidents, teaching your kids how to swim and how to behave safely around water are key to preventing drowning. Kids can start swimming lessons as early as 1 year old and self-rescue techniques, as well as basic swimming skills, should be reinforced annually.

Swimsuits to help keep kids safe

Here are some kids’ swimsuits that hit all the right marks for swim safety.

1. A bright one-piece with built-in rash guard

A bright fuschia bathing suit with gold dots and long sleeves
Credit: Mini Boden

This suit will not only protect them with UPF, it will ensure they are safe in the water too.

Your kid will definitely stand out on the beach in this bright and bold swimsuit. It also has built-in UPF 50 and long sleeves to keep them well-protected whether it be from the sun or in the water.

Get the Fuchsia Pink Foil Dot swimsuit at Boden for $40

2. A cool rash guard with a fun graphic

An orange swimsuit shirt against a cream and green background.
Credit: Lands' End / Reviewed

They'll look cool and be safe in this bright orange rash guard.

Kids will love the cool shark graphic on this rash guard. Parents will love the eye-catching, Alive-approved florescent orange color it comes in.

Get the Boys Long Sleeve Graphic UPF 50 Swim Rash Guard at Lands' End for $16.47 with code SNOW

3. Quick-drying shorts in a swim-safe color

1) A family wears neon green swimsuits at the beach. 2) Two pairs of neon green swim trunks.
Credit: The Season Essentials

These quick-drying trunks are gender-neutral and they come in packs of two.

The whole family can feel safe in these unisex, quick-drying swim trunks that come in a wide range of sizes.

Get the Quick Dry Bathing Suits Swim Short Trunks at Amazon for $13.80

4. A cute rash guard

A pink swim shirt against a blue background.
Credit: Lands' End / Reviewed

The dolphin fin is pretty and the fuchsia color is water safe.

This bright rash guard ups the safety quotient in any kids' swim attire.

Get the Girls Short Sleeve Graphic UPF 50 Swim Rash Guard at Lands' End for $17.46 with code SNOW

5. A color-blocked one piece

A red and fuschia-striped kids' bathing suit
Credit: Gap / Reviewed

The bright pink with the red striping will ensure that all eyes are on your child.

This brightly colored suit has the bright fuchsia that Alive recommends for safety. We also like that the red stripes are additionally eye-catching from afar. Pair it with a contrasting rash guard for extra sun protection and extra eye-catching contrast.

Get the Kids Recycled Swim One-Piece in Sizzling Fuchsia at Gap for $24.80 with code YOURS

6. A neon rash guard

A yellow and an orange swim shirt against a blue background.
Credit: Kanu Surf / Reviewed

These rash guards are bold, bright, and UPF 50.

Protect against the sun and up their aquatic safety with one of these brightly colored orange or neon yellow rash guards with UPF 50.

Get the Kanu Surf rashguard at Amazon starting at $14.95

7. Some contrasting swim trunks

A child wears an orange swimsuit (right) a pair of yellow swim trunks.
Credit: Lands' End / Reviewed

These neon swim trunks are bright and bold.

Alive recommends dressing kids in contrasting colors. These trunks would go great in a complimenting shade with a brightly colored rash guard. We recommend you buy the Alive-approved neon yellow.

Get the Boys’ Solid Swim Trunks at Lands’ End for $18.36 with code SNOW

8. A color-blocked tankini top

A multicolored swim shirt against a colorful background.,
Credit: Lands' End

This tankini top has all of the top-recommended colors by ALIVE, and it comes in a color block style.

This brightly colored tankini top encompasses all of the top colors that Alive recommends for safety in contrasting color blocks.

Get the Girls Colorblock Tankini Swimsuit Top at Lands End for $6.48 with code SNOW

9. A one-shoulder number in an eye-catching color

A bright orange cutout kids' bathing suit
Credit: Old Navy / Reviewed

This bright orange will keep them safe and they'll like the feminine ruffles

This bright orange cut-out suit is bright enough to be seen in pools and on the seashore. The ruffles keep it feminine.

Get the Scallop One-Piece Swimsuit at Old Navy for $20.99 with code HURRY

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