How to stay safe in the water this summer

These expert tips can help swimmers stay safe from ocean dangers like sharks, jellyfish and rip currents this summer.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

In the wake of shark attacks in North Carolina and the Bahamas last month, it's understandable that beachgoers might be a little leery about going for a swim during the Fourth of July holiday.

NBC's Kerry Sanders has been reporting on the recent attacks and spoke with experts on TODAY to get tips on how people can protect themselves against sharks and other dangers while at the beach this summer.

California college student Jordan Lindsey, 21, was killed by three sharks while snorkeling in the Bahamas last week, just days after experienced diver Jonathan Hernandez said he had his left calf "shredded" in a shark attack in the Bahamas before swimming to safety.

Shark attacks have also been occurring on the East Coast in recent weeks, including three in North Carolina as the summer gets in full swing.

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Austin Reed, 19, survived an attack at North Carolina's Ocean Isle Beach last month, an 8-year-old boy suffered puncture wounds to his leg in an attack on Bald Head Island, and 17-year-old Paige Winter lost a leg after surviving an attack at a state park beach when her dad punched a shark.

Shark attacks are rare, as there were 66 confirmed cases of unprovoked attacks worldwide in 2018 compared to the five-year average of 84 from 2013-2017, according to the International Shark Attack File.

When it comes to staying safe in the water, Kristen Ojito, a lifeguard in Dania Beach, Florida, stressed the importance of knowing first aid in case of an attack.

"And if there's heavy bleeding, if you can improvise a tourniquet it would be helpful to slow the bleeding,'' she told Sanders.

Experts also offered the following tips for swimmers:

  • Avoid the surf in early morning and evening when sharks typically feed.
  • Always swim in groups.
  • Steer clear of waters used by sport or commercial fishermen, who may be chumming the water.

Ojito also had some tips for dealing with other marine life like jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-wars that can turn a trip to the beach into a painful day.

  • Fight your curiosity and don't touch it.
  • If you get stung, rinse the area with saltwater, not freshwater.
  • Use a stick or a leaf to scrape the jellyfish off so that you don't get stung anywhere else.

Another threat while out in the ocean can be dangerous rip currents that can exhaust swimmers and pull them far from shore.

U.S. Coast Guard Commanding Officer Lt. Derek Wallin and his crew gave Sanders an important piece of advice for swimmers caught in a rip current.

"The most important thing is to stay calm,'' Wallin said. "You want to try to conserve your energy. You want to be able to keep your wits about you and you want to make yourself as big a target as possible."