Drowning….it’s one of the biggest causes of death for children and it’s completely preventable! We must arm ourselves with a little knowledge and a commitment to keeping continual watch when children are around water. As summer is winding down, we tend to forget these water safety tips. ToySplash wants to give you this water safety reminder. Don’t ever become complacent when it comes to children around water! Drowning prevention and knowing what to look for go hand in hand. We want to help you learn what to look for.
Knowing what to look for when someone is in trouble in the water is key to saving a person from drowning. Unfortunately, movies and TV shows usually depict a person who’s drowning as thrashing around in the water; lots of splashing and yelling going on. That’s completely false. The Instinctive Drowning Response is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. Drowning does not look like drowning. In an article in the Coast Guard’s* On Scene *magazine, the Instinctive Drowning Response was described as follows:
- “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.
Does that mean someone thrashing and screaming in the water is just playing? Not necessarily. Someone could be in aquatic distress so don’t ignore this type of behavior either. But, true drowning is quiet and subtle. This means keeping absolute vigilance around water; especially with children. Are you going to a gathering where there will be a pool, lake or other water source? Assign adults to water safety watch. Drowning often occurs when plenty of adults are present but no one is keeping a careful eye on what’s going on in the pool. Better yet, hire a trained life guard to keep an eye on everyone in the water. Spending this small amount of money is more than worth the possibility of saving a life!!
Here are some signs of drowning to watch for when anyone 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
Quite often, someone who is drowning doesn’t look like they are drowning. Not sure? Ask them if they are okay. If they can’t answer, chances are they are not okay. If you get a blank stare back, you may have less than 30 seconds to get them.
Parents – children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why they are quiet!
**Drowning is preventable. Make sure it doesn’t happen on your watch. ALWAYS WATCH CHILDREN AROUND WATER!!