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How to stay safe while cooling off in the water this weekend

At least three people are believed to have drowned in the past week – so stay safe while you're in the water.

Officials in Minnesota are reminding people to be safe while swimming, especially aftera stringof recent suspected drownings.

To beat this weekend's hot weather, many people will probably head to a beach or pool to stay cool. But it's important to stay safe near the water – especially in rivers or areas with currents.

The Wright County Sheriff's Office says heavy rains this spring made rivers and streams flow rapidly, and there's debris in the water, which makes them more dangerous for swimming. Plus, the water is still pretty cold, which can affect people's ability to swim, Lisa Dugan of the Minnesota DNR told KSTP.

Tips for staying safe in the water

The Minnesota DNR and American Red Cross have suggestions. Here are some of them:

Wear a life jacket – even if you're not on a boat. If you or your child aren't experienced swimmers, put on a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest – don't rely on arm "floaties" or water toys that could deflate of slip off. Dugan said 10 lives could be saved each year in Minnesota if people wore a life jacket.

Know what drowning looks like. It happens in seconds, and it doesn't look like it does in the movies – typically the person is quiet (they can't cry out for help), has their head tipped back, and is bobbing up and down trying to get their nose and mouth out of the water.

Know how to swim. The DNR suggests you and your children take swimming lessons. Many local parks and recreation departments, community schools and the American Red Cross offer swimming lessons, even for adults.

– Always have a buddy – even if a lifeguard is on duty. Don't swim alone, because then there's no one there to help you if you get into trouble in the water.

Have a designated "watcher." If you're with a group and there are kids in the water, have the responsible adults take turns watching them. Never let your kids swim alone, and don't expect another child or a lifeguard to watch them.

Stay sober. Don't drink alcohol while swimming and boating, or if you're watching kids near the water.

Swim where it's safe. Stick to the designated swimming area that has a lifeguard on duty whenever possible.

Drownings in Minnesota

So far this year there have been eight confirmed, non boating-related drownings in Minnesota, but Dugan told GoMN Wednesday that number could rise to nine or more once they get reports from county officials.

That's fewer than last year at this time, when there had been 12 confirmed drownings. In 2016, there were 40 non boating-related drownings in Minnesota, DNR statistics show.

Dugan told GoMN that over the past five years, roughly a quarter of all non-boating drownings happen before Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer.

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