What Drowning Really Looks Like

What Drowning Really Looks Like

We all know what drowning looks like, right?  We’ve seen it on TV!  In movies!  People waving their arms and crying out for help!   Unfortunately, that’s not what real drowning looks like at all, and most people don’t even realize it.

The Instinctive Drowning Response … is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water.  And it does not look like most people expect.  There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.  To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this:  It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.  In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). – Mario Vittone, Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Vittone, a marine safety specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard, also says to look for:

  • 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
  • Trying to climb a ladder but not really making it out of the water.

(cross-posted to Tumblr:  What Drowning Really Looks Like)

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