My husband sent me this article last week about what real drowning looks like – and it’s not how it appears on TV or in movies.
I wanted to make sure that all mothers and fathers saw it to make us more aware and vigilant this summer as our kids frolic in pools and the ocean. (Email this blog to your mom friends and post it on Facebook. Reading it could save a child’s life. Here is the article in Spanish!)
Mario Vittone has nineteen years of military service in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. His writing on maritime safety has appeared in Yachting, Salt Water Sportsman, On Scene, Lifelines, and at the Naval Safety Center’s Online Resource Site. This article is taken from his blog and it describes what is called The Instinctive Drowning Response.
Parents need to understand, according to Vittone, that drowning is deceptively quiet event! There is generally no waving, splashing or yelling that you see on TV or in movies. He reports that “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.”
Vittone says: “And parents – children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”
“The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., 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). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:”
- Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
(Source: On Scene Magazine: Fall 2006 (page 14))”
“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.”
Sorry to be such a downer for a Monday but I just wanted to make sure parents read this before heading out to the pool today or later this week. Vittone has lots more on water safety on is blog so check it out.
My newshound husband just sent me more links to share about drowning:
– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania. Follow me on Twitter and read what I am reading each day. Great stories on family health, family fun, parenting, fashion, stars, and more. Click on the right-hand column to check out links to stories that will interest you. )