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ER doctor spreads water safety message after seeing drownings every summer

Lake Michigan file
Posted at 8:10 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 22:13:22-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As July 4 approaches, you and your family may be headed to Lake Michigan, an inland lake or a local pool. Any spot with water is an area where parents are reminded to be vigilant and take preventative action against drowning.

Dr. Ericas Michiels, Pediatric Emergency Medicine with Spectrum Health, typically sees about two drownings every summer. Her 20 other colleagues see similar numbers, totaling to about 60 drownings per year. Some turn fatal while others do not but can result in life-changing injuries.

"I can tell you that among my colleagues, all of us cringe a little bit driving in for the evening shift on a beautiful summer day because we know that there's a fairly good possibility that we may see a drowning victim," said Dr. Michiels. "I think, you know, as a physician, our heart just breaks for the family and for the child. Many of us are parents ourselves, and so it's hard not to imagine what it would feel like if that was your child."

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4, apart from birth defects. Drowning remains the second-leading cause of accidental death in older children, second only to motor vehicle crashes.

Drowning statistics web_FACTOID copy.png

In order to stay safe, Dr. Michiels is reminding parents to keep safety first with the following tips:

  1. If you are going to Lake Michigan, know the water conditions before swimming.
  2. Keep your kids in a life jacket if they do not know how to swim or are not confident yet in their swimming abilities.
  3. Make sure a sober parent is watching the children at all times.
  4. Watch for them and look out for signs of a struggle. Many drownings tend to be quiet rather than loud screaming or thrashing in the water.

Life jackets are the easiest way to prevent death and injury on the water. Make sure that you aren't supplementing them with floaties, swimmies, turtle shells or other devices that will not keep your child's head above water.

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