Knowing the signs of drowning could prevent deaths -


Knowing the signs of drowning could prevent deaths

About 10 people die each day from unintentional drownings according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children under 4 have the highest drowning rates, but teens and adults who either can't swim, don't wear a life jacket, or who are drinking alcohol have all quickly drowned, in many cases when someone is close by.

Drowning is a silent struggle and a very quick killer.

You can even be watching a child or adult drown, and never even know it until they completely slip beneath the surface.

"That's the tragedy of it because we've seen these images, but we don't really realize that it's not a huge dramatic thing," said John Kirk, owner of the Little Otters Swim School.

That's due in part to television shows and movies that have led us to think you will see a drowning victim screaming and thrashing. On the contrary, its physiologically impossible to identify a drowning victim.

For starters, if you cannot breathe, you can not call for help.

The body kicks in to what's called the instinctive drowning response, and all efforts go towards getting oxygen.

"They can't get up high enough," Kirk said. 

In most cases a drowning victim can be seen, but not heard.

"Their head will tilt back, they might have hair over their eyes, and they're just in a fight for their life," Kirk said. 

A drowning person can't wave for help. Instead, their arms flail out to the sides, pressing down on the water to boost them up.

They're upright, but not kicking and they're not getting anywhere, or they look like they're climbing an invisible ladder.

"They're just grasping at something that's not there to try to get up and out of the water," Kirk said.

At this point, the struggle will only last for about 20 to 60 seconds before they go under.

"More water is going in the mouth, the throat is closing, and it starts to become a panic," he said. 

In a busy pool, lake or beach, it can be difficult trying to determine if someone is really in trouble.

if you were to see someone struggling, you might attempt to ask them -- 'Are you ok?' If they give you a full answer, they might be alright, but if they say nothing and just stare, you only have a few seconds to get them out of the water.

Supervision is the key to drowning prevention.

A CPR-trained parent, lifeguard or buddy should always be with you near the water because a few seconds is all it takes for someone to silently sink below the surface.

Whether it's an adult or a child, if they aren't a strong swimmer, don't let them rely on air-filled or foam toys to help them stay afloat.

These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

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Additional Information:

The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source: <>).

  • Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger.
  • Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.
  • From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States - about ten deaths per day.
  • For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
  • More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries).
  • These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).
  • Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools.2 Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects).
  • Supervisors of preschool children should provide "touch supervision", be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.

The following information is from (Source: <>)

  • The Instinctive Drowning Response ( named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D.,) is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water.                       
  • During a drowning, there is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.
  • Of the approximately 750 children who will down next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or adult. In some cases, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea what's happening.
  • Drowning people are physiologically unable to call for help. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  • Drowning people's mouths sink below and reappear above the surface but are not above long enough to exhale, inhale and call for help before sinking again.
  • Drowning people cannot wave for help. They instinctively extend their arms laterally and press down on the water to gain leverage.
  • Drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movement.
  • The IDR causes people to remain upright in the water with no evidence of supporting kick. They struggle for 20 to 60 seconds before submerging.
  • Aquatic distress is different. People may thrash and yell. But true drowning victims cannot aid in their own rescue.
  • Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
    • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
    • Head tilted back with mouth open
    • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
    • Eyes closed
    • 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
    • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

The following information is from (Source: <>).

  • Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14.
  • A lapse in adult supervision is the single most important factor in child drowning deaths according to the World Health Organization.
  • The best prevention is swimming lessons and vigilance.

The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source:>).

  • Every day about 10 people die from unintentional drowning.
  • Drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional injury death in the US.
  • From 2005-2009 there were an average 3,533 fatal unintentional drowning.
  • One in five who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.
  • More than 50% of victims treated in ERs require hospitalization or further care. These injuries can cause severe brain damage with long-term disabilities.
  • Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
  • Children  ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, mostly in home swimming pools.
  • Risk of drowning is increased by lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers (fences), lack of supervision, failure to wear life jackets, seizure disorders and alcohol use.
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