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What does drowning really look like? – SC Times

No one thinks it can happen to them, until it does.
That’s the message Jamie Darling wants to spread to parents. Darling is the aquatics director at the St. Cloud Area Family YMCA.
Every summer you hear horror stories like this one that surfaced in June: 3-year-old dies a day after his twin brother drowns. Darling recommends you have an eye on kids at all times when they’re near water — even if they’re strong swimmers, there’s a lifeguard or they’re wearing a life jacket.
A lot of people underestimate the risk, Darling said.
“They don’t understand. They don’t think it’s going to happen to them,” she said.
“Any time you’re in the water, they’re within arm’s reach and you’re engaged while they’re swimming,” she said.
Another thing that can trip parents up is the misunderstanding of what drowning really looks like.
“They think that kids and adults are flailing and kind of screaming,” Darling said.
But you typically don’t hear them making noise or splashing, she said.
Usually, a person is bobbing up and down in the water vertically.
When life-guarding, Darling looks for kids who are no longer making forward progress, going vertical and reaching out trying to swim.
Lifeguards are typically doing 10-second scans, constantly looking back and forth in their coverage area. If they witness distress, the goal is to be out in the water, to the child and have their head above water in under a minute. In smaller spaces like the indoor pool at the Y, they can do that in 30 seconds.
Drowning can happen anytime and quickly.
“It happens within seconds,” she said.
Lifeguards also watch for kids that are going hand-over-hand on the side of the pool, how they first approach the water and whether they’re paying attention to where they are in the pool, watching for depths.
Outdoor swimming has a whole other set of dangers.
“On the lake, anything can go wrong,” she said.
At the beach or at a lake, you can’t see the bottom. So parents need to pay attention to depth markers and stay in designated swimming areas. Don’t take kids out where they can’t touch the bottom.
In rivers, currents can change quickly.
“Even the greatest swimmer can drown in the river or lake,” she said.
“They should know where their kids are the whole time and they shouldn’t be on their cellphone,” Darling said.
You should never be further than 3 feet away from a child in the water, and never swim alone.
She said often people feel that if they get their kids in swimming lessons, they’ve done enough to keep them safe. But Darling said you need to be sure kids can actually swim.
Don’t do the old-fashioned swimming lesson: throwing a kid in, sink or swim. Not a good idea.
On a lake or river, kids as well as adults should wear life jackets that are Coast Guard-approved. They will have a mark on the back saying so.
A properly fitted life jacket should keep your chin above water. You should be able to pull up on the shoulders and not have it go above the ears.
Don’t rely on floating devices to take care of your kids. Darling doesn’t like water wings because they don’t help a kid learn to swim and don’t keep their face above water.
Watch kids for signs of overexertion, and make sure everyone is drinking enough water.
Encourage them to come out of the water periodically to eat and drink and reapply sunscreen.
“You shouldn’t be in the water all day,” Darling said.
Kids love to make up games and competitions in the water, but she recommends against some of them. 
That includes breath-holding games.
“They call it shallow-water blackout. It’s very dangerous,” she said. Other times, kids try to swim the whole length of the pool without taking a breath.
“You don’t need to prove it to anybody,” she said. “It’s just not very good for them.”
Follow Stephanie Dickrell on Twitter @SctimesSteph, like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimessteph, call her at 255-8749 or find more stories at www.sctimes.com/sdickrell
Jamie Darling, aquatics director at the St. Cloud YMCA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer other tips. 

Swim lessons

Critical water safety skills
Only 56 percent of adults who swim can perform these skills: 

Source: American Red Cross, National Safety Council, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, St. Cloud YMCA. 

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