During the summer many people try to beat the heat by cooling down at local pools or beaches. For the majority, the time spent in the water is a fun-filled occasion for children and parents alike. Unfortunately, that same environment can be one of devastation when a child drowns often in the company of family and friends. Florida leads the country in drowning deaths of children ages 1–4.
According to the FL department of Health “Annually in Florida, enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthday.”
This a startling and scary statistic. In the past, the way I’ve tried to protect my children was by avoiding the pools and by limiting their exposure to open bodies of water. I know realistically that’s not the best method and over the last few years have enrolled them in swim lessons hoping that they’ll be given the tools to survive in the event they were accidentally submerged in water.
Although they haven’t quite learned how to swim yet, they’re getting more comfortable with the water and holding their breaths. I’m still very over protective of them and watch them very closely to catch the slightest sign of distress in the water. I’ve even decided to take swim lessons myself. My Facebook post sums up my very first lesson.
Notice I said I watched my kids closely to catch the slightest sign of distress. I figured that if someone was in trouble, they’d be screaming, their hands would be flailing or waving for help, splashing lots of water and in full panic. It turns out that a scene like that is mostly depicted in the movies and not necessarily in real life. I read an article recently that gave me a totally new perspective on what happens when a person is drowning.(You may have read this or a similar article.)
Apparently, there’s an Instinctive Drowning Response that occurs when people are drowning.
- Except for rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to speak. They’re too busy trying to catch their breath
- Drowning people cannot wave for help. Their natural tendency is to extend their arms out and press down on the water’s surface in order to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
- From beginning to end a drowning person’s body will 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.”
It’s literally a matter of seconds before they drown. The following video shows a downing 9 yo boy in a crowded beach seconds before being rescued. Thank God for keen lifeguards. Notice how close he was to other people and no one knew he was drowning.
There are signs of drowning that you can look for when a person is 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
It’s also suggested that if you suspect a person might be silently drowning, swim over to them and ask if they’re ok. If they’re able to answer you, chances are they’re ok. Rule of thumb for kids: When kids are playing and having fun in the water, they’re usually making lots of noise. If your child is quiet, check on him immediately.
Things can go terribly wrong even with the ability to swim. I know that for me and my children this summer, we are making small steps to be better prepared in and around water.
- Can you swim?
- Would you be able to identify a drowning person?
- Have you ever had to rescue a drowning person?
- Have you ever come close to drowning?