Drowning looks different than you think

Think drowning involves screaming, gasping, and flailing? Think itís easy
to notice someone drowning? Well, youíre wrong. Drowning is a silent
killer. Thereís no splashing, waving, or calling for help of any kind. It's
not like what you see on TV. Many people would not even notice another
person drowning at just 30 yards away. Read on for tips on how to keep
yourself and those you love safe from this silent killer whether at the
beach or in your backyard pool.


The Facts About this Silent Killer

The Instinctive Drowning Response, a term coined by Francesco A. Pia,
Ph.D., is what people instinctively do to avoid suffocation when drowning.
The responses to drowning are undramatic and surprisingly quiet. Drownings
are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4. Even
scarier is that in a small but significant percentage of kids' drownings,
an adult will have watched the whole process, not having a clue what was

Drowning Doesn't Look Like What You'd Expect

Dr. Pia, in an article entitled "It Doesn't Look Like They're Drowning"
featured in the Coast Guardís On Scene Magazine (Fall 06), describes the
typical drowning response as follows: "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.
Drowning peopleís mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the
surface of the water. The mouth of a drowning person is not above the
surface of the water long enough to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.
When the drowning personís mouth is above the surface, she exhales and
inhales quickly as her mouth starts to sink below the surface of the water.
Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to
extend their arms laterally and press down on the waterís 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.

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.

From beginning to
end of the Instinctive Drowning Response peopleís 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."

Signs of Drowning

Watch for these signs the next time youíre swimming with your kids or
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with open mouth
Hair over forehead or eyes
Eyes glassy, empty and unable to focus
Eyes closed
Hyperventilating or gasping
Not using legs
Body is vertical and upright
Trying to swim in a certain direction but not making progress
Trying to roll over on the back

Stay Aware to Save a Life

Keep your eyes open for any oddities because even when things seem ok, they
may not be. A good way to be sure is to ask your kid or the person youíre
swimming with if he or she is all right. If they are rather still, do not
answer or have a blank stare, then you may have less than 30 seconds to get
to them! As any parent knows, kids make noise in the water. If they are not
making noise, find out why and get them out of the water ASAP.


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