Pediatrician offers water safety tips as we head into summer

MACON, Georgia (41NBC / WMGT) – Amerson River Park was the scene of tragedy Tuesday.

The Bibb County Sheriffs Office reported that 18-year-old Kevin Gillens drowned in the Ocmulgee River.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death from injury worldwide. It accounts for 7% of all deaths from injury.

Dr. Christy Peterson, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Navicent, says you should wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation device as a life jacket. Dr. Peterson says a life jacket should be a good fit for your child.

“A Coast Guard approved life jacket is much better than just giving the child a flotation device or an inner tube,” said Dr. Peterson. “Because those things can easily slip out of their reach, come loose or leak.”

We spoke to a man who did not want to speak in front of the camera. He says he would never swim in the river because of the high current. Another man, Jimmy Slay, told us that the strong current doesn’t deter him. He swims in the river every summer, but recommends that you be a strong swimmer.

“We have a lot of people here competing against other people,” said Slay. “Everyone here takes care of everyone.”

Dr. Peterson says a child can drown in under a minute, so always keep an eye on your kids.

“If you’re dealing with a lake or a river and the water isn’t clear, the nightmare is that they’re underwater and you can’t see them,” said Dr. Peterson. “So hopefully you will see them and be able to respond at that point.”

She also says teaching your kids to swim shouldn’t negate supervision.

“We need to teach our children to be safe around water,” said Dr. Peterson. “One of the most important things is to teach them to swim.”

According to Dr. Peterson, if you’re trying to save someone from drowning, call for someone to call 911. If you see someone struggling in the water, it is better to grab them without being in the water, but sometimes that is inevitable.

“Being able to throw them something that can pull them towards you like a stick or a fishing rod, or if you’re at a pool, maybe something designed for that,” said Dr. Peterson. “But the first thing to do is not jump in unless you absolutely have to.”

Amerson River Park has no lifeguards.

Swimming is at your own risk. However, life jacket stations are available.

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