What To Do If Your Baby Swallowed Bath Water or Got Water in Nose During Bath

Bath time can be a joyful experience, but what happens if your baby swallows or inhales bath water? Understandably, this can lead to a moment of panic for parents.

This article explores the subject of what to do if your baby swallows or inhales bath water, shedding light on conditions like dry drowning and secondary drowning, and how to ensure your baby is safe around water.

Learn what steps to take if your baby has swallowed or inhaled bath water, when to seek medical attention, and preventive measures you can apply.

Understanding Drowning: A Quick Overview

Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children. But not all drowning events involve large bodies of water. Sometimes, even a small amount of water in a bathtub can pose a risk.

Drowning occurs when water goes into the lungs, affecting a baby’s ability to breathe. However, drowning can be categorized into two types: dry drowning and secondary drowning.

How to Keep Your Baby Safe in the Tub

Your baby’s safety during bath time is paramount. Always make sure that the water is lukewarm before placing your baby in the tub. Use a bath mat or bath seat with suction cups to prevent your baby from slipping.

Most importantly, never leave your baby alone in the bathtub, not even for a second.

What Happens if a Baby Swallows Bath Water?

If your baby swallowed bath water, there’s typically no cause for concern if the water went inside their stomach and not their lungs.

Babies often swallow some water while bathing, but this usually doesn’t lead to any medical condition. However, if you’re concerned that your baby may have inhaled water into their lungs, look for symptoms such as coughing or difficulty breathing.

Should You Be Concerned About Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning is a condition that occurs when a small amount of water irritates the airway, leading to spasm and difficulty breathing.

It’s crucial to remember that dry drowning does not occur from swallowing a small amount of water; it occurs when water goes through the mouth or nose into the airway.

Symptoms of dry drowning include excessive coughing and feeling excessively tired.

What Are the Symptoms of Secondary Drowning?

Secondary drowning happens when water irritates the lungs, leading to an inflammatory response that can cause difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of secondary drowning may not appear immediately and may be experiencing delayed onset, making it essential to monitor your baby closely after a water incident.

Look for signs such as persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, and extreme fatigue.

When Can Water Get Into a Baby’s Nose During Bath Time?

Water getting into a baby’s nose during bath time is a common concern for parents, especially for those who are new to the experience of bathing an infant.

While the risk is generally low, there are specific situations where this can occur:

1. Sudden Movements or Splashing

Babies are naturally curious and often love to kick, splash, and move around during bath time. These sudden movements could cause water to accidentally get into their nose.

2. Using Cups or Containers for Rinsing

When you pour water over the baby’s head to rinse off soap and shampoo, there’s a possibility that water could run down into their nose, especially if the head is not tilted correctly.

3. Slippery Surfaces

If the bathtub or bath seat is slippery, the baby might slide or tip over, potentially causing their face to submerge temporarily and allowing water to enter their nose. Non-slip mats or bath seats with suction cups can help prevent this.

4. Sudden Loss of Support

If you’re holding your baby and your grip slips for just a moment, there’s a risk that the baby’s face could momentarily go under the water, leading to water entering the nose.

5. Bath Toys and Games

While playing with bath toys or engaging in bath-time games, water may splash or be directed unintentionally towards the baby’s face and nose.

6. Older Siblings in the Tub

If there are older children sharing the bath, their movements could inadvertently cause water to splash into the baby’s nose.

7. Inadequate Support

For younger infants who can’t sit up by themselves yet, not providing proper head and neck support could lead to their head tilting to a position where water could enter their nose.

To minimize the risk of water entering your baby’s nose:

  • Always supervise baby bath time closely.
  • Use a bath seat or non-slip mat to ensure stability.
  • Use a soft visor or your hand to shield your baby’s face when rinsing their hair.
  • Teach older siblings to be cautious when sharing a bath with a younger child.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Baby Inhaled Bath Water

Even if a small amount of water does get into the baby’s nose, it usually causes nothing more than a brief moment of discomfort as the baby will naturally cough or sputter to clear their airway.

However, if you notice persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, or any other signs of distress, consult a healthcare professional immediately for advice.

In the unfortunate event that you suspect your baby inhaled water into their lungs, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

A healthcare professional will perform necessary tests to confirm or rule out dry and secondary drowning. In the meantime, keep your baby upright to help them cough up any inhaled water.

Cough and Sputter: Signs to Look For

A single cough or sputter is generally not a reason to worry so much. However, if your baby continues to cough or shows signs of difficulty getting enough oxygen, these could be drowning symptoms and warrant immediate medical attention.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

If your baby shows symptoms of dry or secondary drowning, such as persistent coughing or difficulty breathing, it is imperative to seek medical attention immediately. Keep in mind that symptoms of dry and secondary drowning can be delayed and may appear several hours after the bath

Tips for Teaching Your Baby Water Safety

The best way to protect your baby is to teach them water safety skills. Start by getting your baby used to water around 5 months of age. You can also look into baby swimming lessons to make your child comfortable around water. Always supervise your baby closely, whether in a tub or a large body of water.

Preventing Accidents in the Bath: From Babies to Older Children

Bath time can be a fun and bonding experience for families, but it also comes with its share of risks. Drowning remains a leading cause of death among young children, and even older kids can suffer injuries due to falls or slips in the bathroom. Below are tips and guidelines to ensure a safe bathing experience for children of all ages.

1. Never Leave Children Unattended

The golden rule for bath safety across all age groups is never to leave a child unsupervised in the bath. For babies, this is especially critical, as they can easily tip over or slide in a bath seat or mat. Even older children can slip or have difficulty if soap gets in their eyes. Always have a responsible adult or older teenager oversee bath time.

2. Use Non-Slip Mats or Decals

Bathrooms can be slippery environments. Use non-slip mats with suction cups both inside the bathtub and on the bathroom floor. These mats can provide extra traction for children, reducing the risk of falls.

3. Check Water Temperature

Before putting your child into the bath, always check the water temperature. For babies, use lukewarm water and test it with your wrist or a dedicated bath thermometer. Older children should be taught to test the water themselves before getting in.

4. Keep Essential Items Within Reach

Keep all essential bath items like soap, shampoo, and towels within arm’s reach. This prevents you from having to step away from the child to fetch these items, maintaining continuous supervision.

5. Limit Water Level

For babies, only fill the tub with enough water for them to sit in without being submerged. Older children should also be advised against filling the tub to the brim, as this increases the risk of water spilling and causing slips.

6. Use Shatter-Proof Containers

Opt for shatter-proof containers for shampoo, soap, and other bath products. Glass containers can break and cause injury.

7. Educate on Electrical Safety

Teach older children the importance of electrical safety in the bathroom. Make sure they know not to operate electrical devices such as hairdryers or radios near water to prevent electrical shocks.

8. Avoid Harsh Cleaning Agents

For cleaning the bath area, opt for child-safe and non-toxic cleaning agents. Chemicals in cleaning agents can be harmful if ingested or come into contact with skin.

9. Teach Water Safety and Swimming Skills

As children grow older, teaching them basic swimming skills and water safety can be beneficial. These skills not only make them safer around large bodies of water but also teach them the importance of respecting water at home.

10. Emergency Response Plan

Make sure older children know what to do in case of an emergency. Teach them how to call for help and explain the importance of keeping younger siblings safe during bath time.

By implementing these tips, you not only make bath time safer but also instill lifelong water safety habits in your children. Bath time should be fun, and following these guidelines will help ensure that it’s also safe for everyone involved.

Making the bath area safe is crucial. Use a bath mat with suction cups to keep your baby from slipping. Always test the water with your wrist to ensure it’s lukewarm before bathing your baby.

Keep soap and shampoo out of reach, and use a visor to prevent water from going into your baby’s eyes, nose, or mouth.

Important Things to Remember

  • Drowning can happen in small amounts of water; never leave your baby unsupervised.
  • Dry drowning and secondary drowning are conditions that require immediate medical attention.
  • Always keep your baby safe during bath time by using a non-slip bath mat and lukewarm water.
  • Continuous coughing or difficulty breathing are signs that you should seek medical attention for your child.
  • Teaching water safety skills to your baby can go a long way in preventing accidents.

By taking necessary precautions and being aware of the signs of drowning, you can ensure that bath time remains a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q: Is it normal for babies to swallow some bath water?

A: While it’s not ideal, it’s fairly common for babies to swallow a bit of water during bath time. Usually, swallowing a small amount of water is not harmful if it goes into the stomach and not the lungs.

However, continuous coughing or other signs of distress may warrant a closer look.

Q: What is dry drowning and should I be concerned?

A: Dry drowning occurs when a small amount of water irritates the airway, causing it to spasm and leading to difficulty in breathing.

While rare, it’s important to be aware of its symptoms such as excessive coughing and fatigue, as it requires immediate medical attention.

Q: How can I prevent my baby from slipping in the bathtub?

A: Consider using a bath mat with suction cups or a bath seat to provide additional stability and to keep your baby from slipping. Always maintain hands-on contact with your baby throughout the bath.

Q: What are the symptoms of secondary drowning?

A: Symptoms of secondary drowning can include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, and extreme fatigue. These symptoms may not appear immediately and can be delayed for several hours.

Q: My baby coughed a few times after swallowing some bath water. Is that a reason to worry?

A: A few coughs immediately after swallowing water are generally not a cause for concern. However, if coughing continues or if there are other signs like difficulty breathing or extreme fatigue, seek medical attention immediately.

Q: How soon should I introduce my baby to water safety or swimming lessons?

A: It’s generally recommended to start introducing your baby to water by the time they are around 5 months old. Some parents opt for baby swimming lessons to make their children more comfortable around water.

Q: What should the temperature of the bath water be?

A: Use lukewarm water for your baby’s bath. Always test the water with your wrist or a bath thermometer to ensure it’s the right temperature for your baby’s sensitive skin.

Q: Can I leave my baby unattended in the bathtub if they are sitting securely in a bath seat?

A: No, never leave your baby unattended in the bathtub, even if they are in a bath seat. Babies can easily slip or tip over, posing a risk for drowning.

Q: What should I do if I suspect my baby has inhaled water into their lungs?

A: If you suspect that your baby has inhaled water into their lungs, seek medical attention immediately. Keep your baby upright to facilitate coughing up any inhaled water.

Q: How much water is too much for a baby to swallow?

A: While a small amount of water swallowed is usually not a cause for concern, large amounts can lead to water intoxication, a serious condition.

If you are concerned about the amount of water your baby has swallowed, consult a healthcare professional immediately.




This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.