Real signs of drowning are subtle
By Annette Tait
A trip to the lake or swimming pool is a great way to beat the summer heat – so long as everyone comes home safely. Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 -14. Roughly half of all drowning deaths happen on natural waters.
Drowning can occur when people nearby don’t realize what is happening. The common misconception is that the signs of drowning look like what’s seen on TV or in the movies – people thrashing about in the water and yelling for help. While these are signs of distress – of a person who is in difficulty -- they are not true signs of drowning.
The true signs of drowning are subtle – hair covering forehead or eyes, trying to swim but not making headway, head low in the water with mouth at surface level, head tipped back and mouth open, or eyes glassy and unfocused or closed. Hyperventilating or gasping for breath, or trying to roll over on the back. Or vertical in the water but not using leg movements, or appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder.
According to the American Red Cross, drowning is often the result of overconfidence – people think their swimming skills are better than they really are. The organization encourages everyone who enters the water – or might enter water by accident, for instance unintentionally from a boat – to have critical water safety skills. Referred to as “water competency,” an individual should have the ability to step or jump into water that is over his head, return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute, turn around in a full circle and find an exit, swim 25 yards to the exit, and exit from the water (without using the ladder if in a swimming pool).
While knowing the signs of drowning is essential for anyone who spends time near the water, taking steps to prevent drowning is every more important.