With summer approaching, parents urged to recognize signs of a distressed swimmer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - With summer almost here and children out of school, the pools and lakes will likely get crowded. But while the water can be a fun place for kids, it can also be dangerous.

This is a face Aaron and Sarah Linderman know all too well. Sarah is an emergency room doctor. During her training in Arizona, she saw too many drowning incidents involving children.

"Based on her experience, seeing those little kiddos, I think it's well worth the money to enroll in something like this, give you a little peace of mind," Aaron said.

The couple's two children, Caroline, 5, and William, 2, are enrolled in KC Swim Academy's Infant Aquatics program. It's a specialized training program that teaches more than just swim strokes. It teaches children how to save themselves if they end up in the water.

"It is, in a sense, survival," said Infant Aquatics coach Scott Virden. "So if they fall in the water, they know how to get on their backs to get air until they can get over to the side, or someone comes to save them."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to four, second only to motor vehicle crashes.

Every day, 10 people die from unintentional drowning, and of those, two will be children younger than 14.

"My dad always said swimming is probably the one sport that can actually save your life," said Aaron.

Amanda Mitchell is the senior aquatics director for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. She says in addition to learning how to swim, it's important for parents to know the signs of a swimmer in distress.

"It can be the difference between jumping in and getting a kid safely to the side while they're active and alert or having a drowning incident," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the first sign is the position of the person's head.

"An active person in distress at the pool, they're going to have their head back, so they're trying to keep their mouth to the highest point so they can keep air," she said.

Their eyes will also be very wide and bright as they enter a state of panic, Mitchell pointed out.

"Their arms could be flailing but also a distressed swimmer may not be kicking to keep themselves up because they're in such a state of panic, they forget to kick their legs,"

And even though swimmers in movies or on television always yell for help, Mitchell said, in that state of panic, a person may not make any noise at all.

"It does not take long at all," said Mitchell. "At about that 20 second mark, that's when someone in distress will be so fatigued that they'll start to slip under the surface."

Mitchell recommends all young swimmers or anyone who is not comfortable in the water wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket and try to stick with bodies of water that have a lifeguard present.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City will also be handing out "Water Watcher" badges this summer to families. It encourages one adult to hold the badge at all times when the family is at the pool or the lake. That person is the designated Water Watcher, meaning they don't check their cell phone or socialize. Their only responsibility is to focus on everyone in the water. Mitchell said adults should only keep the badge for about 20 minutes before handing it off to someone else.

The bottom line is to know what's going on with your children in the water.

"Be aware of what's around you and be respectful of the water," said Virden.

To learn more about the YMCA's swim programs, visit www.kansascityymca.org .

To learn more about KC Swim Academy's Infant Aquatics, visit kansascityswimacademy.org.

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