Why Drowning, Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.


According to the CDC- 10% of drownings are actually watched by an adult, that don’t realize what is happening.

Summertime is upon us, the temperatures are up. Parents and children crowd the pools looking for a respite from the oppressive heat. The pools, lakes and rivers swell with children’s laughter. They kick and scream, and play. But how do you know when a child is in trouble?

In the movies the drowning actors cry for help. We have been pre-conditioned to think that they splash and cry out they are drowning. That is Hollywood, and it is far from the reality of what actually happens.

Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is the reality of how people react to the actual or perceived threat of suffocation.

Drowning is actually very quiet, there is no splashing or thrashing. No cries for help. The drowning person is simply attempting to breathe.

5 Steps Of Drowning by Frescesco A. Pia

1 Unlike the movies, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children up to 15 years old. This is just behind vehicle accidents, the number one cause. According to statistics approximately 750 children 15 or younger will drown this year. of those 75 of those drownings….an adult will watch without realizing. Another 350 will occur within 25 yards of an adult.

Some of the signs of a person in danger of drowning are:

  • 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

If you notice a person displaying any of these signs get help from a trained professional immediately. Drowning people are probably the most dangerous people to try to rescue. In a panic, drowning patients are likely to claw at rescuers and climb to the surface at all costs. NEVER attempt a direct rescue of a conscious drowning person without proper training as they may very well drown you in your attempt to save them.

Use some type of flotation device, rope or oar to reach out the the struggling victim. If non of these items are available, link up with fellow bystanders to reach out to the drowning individual. Understand, before you can save someone, you have to survive as well.

Be aware of the signs of drowning when you are at the pool. Once the drowning response starts you have less than a minute to save that life.


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