Do You Know How to Identify a Drowning Person? - FamilyEducation

Do You Know How to Identify a Drowning Person?

June 06,2013
Lindsay Hutton

School's (almost) out for the summer, and we've got the whole summer stretched out before us, filled with pool parties, days at the beach, and backyard water fun.

Being by or near the water is a favorite summertime activity for many families, but do you know how to identify a drowning child or person? Although it's dreadful to think about, the reality is that drowning is the second highest cause of death among children ages 1-4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also states that around 10 people die every day from drowning, two of whom are children under the age of 14. And, in some tragic cases, some parents have watched their child drown not knowing what was happening.

But how can that be? Can't you recognize a drowning person immediately, with their flailing arms and screams for help? Unfortunately, no, because drowning doesn't look the way it's portrayed in the movies. In fact, a drowning person is nearly silent, with no splashing or flailing limbs. And they are upright in the water, not face down.

It's called the Instinctive Drowning Repsonse, and it's how a drowning person acts when he or she is in danger of suffocating in the water. There is no screaming, because speech is a secondary response to breathing, so the drowning person is physiologically unable to yell for help.

Additionally, a drowning person isn't fully submerged, and their mouths tend to go under and reappear above the water, giving the illusion that they are in control. Again, they aren't able to call for help, since their time above water is spent quickly inhaling and exhaling.

But what about waving for help? Surely someone would see a thrashing arm, right? When someone is drowning, their limbs are doing all the work under the surface of the water, trying desperately to keep the head above the water to gulp in precious breaths. It is physically impossible to do this, and wave at the same time, and since breathing trumps waving, all energy is focused on that.

So, it's easy to see that unless you are trained to identify this response, a person can be drowning without you knowing it. Read this article to learn how to identify a drowning person.

In addition, check out our content on water safety and other summer hazards:

Have a happy and safe summer everyone!