Pediatrician offers water safety tips as we head into summer

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

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

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide according to the World Health Organization. It accounts for 7% of all injury related deaths.

Dr. Christy Peterson, a pediatrician with Atrium Health Navicent, says you should wear a Coast Guard approved flotation device like a life jacket. Dr. Peterson says a life jacket should fit snug on your child.

“A Coast Guard approved life vest is way better than just giving the child a floaty or an inner tube,” Dr. Peterson said. “Because those things can easily slip out of their reach or come off or get punctured.”

We spoke with one man who didn’t want to speak on camera. He says he would never swim in the river because of how fast the current is. Another man, Jimmy Slay, told us the strong current doesn’t deter him. He swims in the river every summer but advises you should be a strong swimmer.

“We got a lot of people that come out here who take on to other people,” Slay said. “Everybody looks out for everybody out here.”

Dr. Peterson says a child could drown within a minute, so always keep an eye on your children.

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

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

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

According to Dr. Peterson, if you do attempt to rescue someone from drowning, yell for someone to call 911. If you see someone struggling in the water, it’s better to reach for them without being in the water, but sometimes that’s unavoidable.

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

Amerson River Park does not have lifeguards.

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

Categories: Bibb County, Featured, Health, Health & Fitness, Local News, WMGT

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