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Injury expert gives water safety tips heading into summer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Water safety is a key part of having a fun, but safe summer, and experts warn the only way to be sure your family stays safe is to use close and sometimes hands-on supervision around any body of water.

Lori Baldwin is the outreach and injury prevention coordinator for Ascension St. Vincent and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. She says supervision is prevention around a pool, lake, or other body of water.

“The more that we can be near our kids, the better,” Baldwin said. “I think it’s intuitive when they’re really little. We need to be right beside them.”

Baldwin notes every child learns to swim at their own rate so it is important to be at arm’s reach for babies and toddlers and close by as children learn to swim.

“The thing about drowning is that it is silent,” Baldwin said. “You’re not going to hear a kid yell out like he would if he fell off a bike or off a swing.”

It is easy to read a book or be on your phone at the pool or lake, but when children are near water at least one adult needs to be actively supervising, Baldwin says.

“Somebody has to be responsible and be keeping their eyes on the children,” Baldwin said. “Assigning a water watcher for maybe 15 minutes and maybe you can take turns so no one is assigned to a long-term lifeguard duty.”

Baldwin said no one should be relying fully on lifeguards because they have a large area to supervise.

“I like to see that they have rescue equipment around,” Baldwin said. “The nurse in me is looking to see do they have a backboard. Do they have a throw buoy to throw to someone out in deep water that’s struggling.”

Baldwin said it is important that no one swims alone, no matter their age.

“Even a very skilled adult that’s been swimming shouldn’t be alone. We never want people to be in the water alone because emergencies happen, accidents happen, and medical emergencies happen in the water,” Baldwin said.

Experts also recommend bright swimwear to make anyone in a body of water more visible, and the use of a life jacket on a boat at all times.

Baldwin says the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends formal swim lessons starting at 4 or 5 years old, but said there are water classes for younger children to help expose them to water at a young age.