All summer, we have discussed the importance of water safety to prevent drowning for you and your family. The article from GCaptain depicts a different vision of how drowning actually occurs vs. the way we see it played out in movies. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this, it is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under just behind car accidents. Approximately 750 children will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening. Many studies have shown that when someone is actually drowning, they do not look like they are drowning. Here are a few things that usually happen when drowning.
1. Except 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. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs (On Scene Magazine).
2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. 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 (On Scene Magazine).
3. 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 (On Scene Magazine).
4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. 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 (On Scene Magazine).
5. 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 from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs (On Scene Magazine).
The article makes it a point to express that if a person is able to call out for help and do some of the above, they may still be experiencing some kind of emergency. Those who are able to do this, are more likely to assist with their own rescue such as grabbing life rings, lifelines, etc.
If you are in the water, pay close attention to the below signs of drowning that will be present in a person.
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
Hair over forehead or eyes
Not using legs – Vertical
Hyperventilating or gasping
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
Trying to roll over on the back
Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.