In the movies, a drowning person responds to his or her situation with waiving arms, violent kicking, and screams for help. Therefore, many of us look for those signs when scanning the water for people in need.
However, it simply doesn’t look that way. In truth, when a person is drowning, they are battling to stay above water. Their arms are focused on one thing – swimming. With panicked short gasps and fight to keep water out of their mouths, their lungs are also focused on one thing – breathing.
The reality is that a drowning person may look more like they are practicing treading water than experiencing life-threatening trouble. Even worse, they may look as though they are simply enjoying the view of the perfect blue summer sky. This is the reason so many don’t recognize that someone is drowning until the person goes under water.
Understanding The Myths Of Drowning
Calling for help - A drowning person will not be able to call for help. He or she also will not be able to make play sounds or talk with someone. This can be an especially important sign with children. Know your children and how they play in water. If they are suddenly quieter than usual, investigate.
Waiving arms – Don’t look for waiving arms. Signaling for help is a voluntary movement, and drowning victims lose this ability. A person who is in trouble in the water will be instinctively using his or her arms to try to stay afloat.
Big splashes and kicks – Most drowning victims stay upright until they go underwater. Instinctively, their arms will be moving outward and downward, but because of the body’s instinctive drowning response, their legs often do not get the signal to provide the supporting kicks. Do not expect large splashes to be a sign of drowning.
Understanding The Signs Of Drowning
- Uncontrolled arm movement – Arm movement will be outward and downward, but it will be uncontrolled.
- Eyes are closed or glassy – The victim is experiencing an instinctive response and will not have the ability to logically analyze the situation to focus his or her sight on someone who can help.
- Head tilted back with the mouth just above the water – The person may look more like they are enjoying looking at the blue sky than needing help.
- Hair covering the face or forehead – A simple but important sign. People who are experiencing the threat of drowning lose the ability to perform voluntary actions, such as brushing the hair from their face.
- Gasping or hyperventilating – They are struggling for breath both from their battle with the water and due to instinctive response within their body.
- Trying to swim in a direction without going anywhere – It may look like he or she is stuck in a riptide. They may look like they are trying to swim somewhere, but they are not making any headway.
- Turning onto their backs or float without leg movement – Many drowning victims will instinctively attempt to float, but without the essential leg movement that gets lost with the body’s instinctive drowning instinct, they will be unsuccessful.
Drowning can happen in as little as 60 seconds. Recognizing the first signs of trouble can mean the difference between a close call and a tragic event. When in doubt, always call out a simple question, “Are you okay?” If no answer comes, immediately provide assistance.
Talk With The Experts
Premier Aquatics Services provides our local community with lifeguard services, water safety training, and swim lesson programs. To ensure your guests’ safety, always remember to assign someone to watch the water at all times and hire a Premier Aquatics Services lifeguard for your next private party.
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