With the heat and humidity lately, my kids have been spending most of their days in the pool. As a father of children ages 11, 10 and 2, drowning is something that is always on my mind. Whether you watch the news on TV or read the paper, I feel that there are always devastating reports of a child drowning. Did you know that the signs aren’t what TV portrays, such as someone screaming or flailing about? Being unaware of the signs, someone could be drowning right next to you and you may not even know it.
This is such the case that drowning is the No. 2 cause of accidental death among children under the age of 15. With those statistics, I would like to take a very important moment to call out some very silent signs of drowning.
Silence. A child who is hyperventilating won’t be screaming for help. They will be gasping for breath. In rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function.
Head tilted back. Instinctively, the child will be trying to keep airways clear of water. While their body might be in a vertical position, water might be covering most of their face. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
Arms moving downward. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe, almost like pushing down on something to stand up.
Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
Floating face down. If someone’s body is horizontal and face down for 30 seconds or more, be concerned. Don’t mistake it for purposeful floating. From beginning to end of the instinctive drowning response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water for 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.
Also, keep an eye on kids jumping into the water. This is when someone jumps into the water and doesn’t come back up. That could be a child that might not know how to swim or even someone who can swim but has hit an object going down. In these cases, drowning could happen immediately.
Keep children safe and know the signs of drowning.
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