Do You Know What Drowning Looks Like?

Posted on Jul 7th 2017 by Florida Blue

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Yelling for help. Splashing violently. Gasping loudly. These are all signs of drowning we’ve seen played out in movies and on TV. But we all know that real life isn’t always how it appears on the big screen. And in reality, drowning looks very different from this.

When someone thinks they might be in danger, they might call out for help. But if they actually begin to drown, their body begins to find any way possible to get air—which makes them silent, struggling to keep nose and mouth above water. This is called the instinctive drowning response according to lifeguard and water rescue expert Francesco Pia, PhD, and when this is happening it can seem like the drowning person is actually playing around in the water. The whole scene can play out in less than 60 seconds.

Watch this video, and then read over these signs to watch for as you keep watch over your loved ones this summer at the pool and beach. If you see any of these signs, act fast-once the drowning person is submerged, it may be too late.

Silence: There’s no spare breath to call for help.

Bobbing up and down: The drowning person’s mouth sinks below the water’s surface, pops up just enough to breathe and sinks back down.

Stiff arms: Instead of waving for help, arms are out to the side, hands pressed down on the water to stay afloat. At this point, a drowning person wouldn’t be able to reach out to grab a life preserver.

Stillness: It is almost as if the drowning person is standing in the water. There is no kicking, and their body is straight up and down.

While you’re out in the summer sun, splashing and having fun, don’t take your eyes off your children - even for a few seconds. Have one family member or friend appointed to keep watch at all times.


Filed under: Prevention  


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