8 Things You Need to Know About Drowning

8-things-you-need-to-know-drowningHere’s a sober­ing fact: drown­ing doesn’t look the way most peo­ple imag­ine it does. Flail­ing arms, des­per­ate splash­es, and shrill yelling—these are all things that you might have seen in the movies, but that does­n’t hap­pen in real life. Sum­mer is packed with awe­some water-based activ­i­ties like swim­ming, stand up pad­dle board­ing, boat­ing, and canoe­ing. For any of these activ­i­ties, drown­ing is a real risk. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should play it safe by sit­ting qui­et­ly indoors dur­ing the best days of sum­mer. What it does mean is that you—and oth­er mem­bers of your party—should brush up on drown­ing safe­ty tips. Spoil­er alert: even if you can swim, it can hap­pen to you.

Rec­og­nize the Instinc­tive Drown­ing Response
Water safe­ty spe­cial­ists have coined the term ‘instinc­tive drown­ing response’ to iden­ti­fy what drown­ing real­ly looks like. When some­one is drown­ing, they can’t shout out for help: their body auto­mat­i­cal­ly pri­or­i­tizes breath­ing over any­thing else, mak­ing it impos­si­ble for them to scream.

A per­son who is drown­ing often can­not con­trol their movements—that means they can’t always grab res­cue equip­ment, move towards anoth­er per­son, or wave their hands. When a per­son is in the advanced stages of drown­ing, they are vir­tu­al­ly silent and mak­ing very few move­ments. This is when you need to act quickly.

If You’re Unsure, Dou­ble Check
In the ear­ly stages of drown­ing, it might just look like a per­son is casu­al­ly tread­ing water. Look for signs like closed or unfo­cused eyes; a tilt­ed head (either back or for­ward); hair cov­er­ing the eyes; or look­ing like the per­son is try­ing to swim some­where, but is get­ting nowhere.

If you’re unsure, ver­bal­ly check with your bud­dy to make sure they’re okay. If they don’t respond or they just stare at you blankly, act fast.

Don’t Rely on Your Ear for Kids
When your kids are involved in water activ­i­ties, you need to keep an eye on them, not just an ear. Super­vi­sors some­times think that they will hear the child shout­ing for help or splash­ing if they’re in trou­ble, when in real­i­ty, they like­ly won’t hear any­thing at all. Instead of lis­ten­ing for sus­pi­cious sounds, you should learn to rec­og­nize that silence is the most sus­pi­cious sound of all.

Get Help and Act Quick­ly
If you’ve iden­ti­fied that some­body is drown­ing, call for help imme­di­ate­ly. Gath­er­ing a small crew of helpers, if pos­si­ble, will help improve the victim’s chances. Have one per­son call 911. As a gen­er­al guide­line, you might have up to one minute to help a strug­gling adult and only 20 sec­onds to help a strug­gling child.

Res­cue the Vic­tim
In the ear­ly stages of drown­ing, it might be pos­si­ble to res­cue the vic­tim by reach­ing an object out to them or using a throw res­cue device for them to grab on to.

As the sever­i­ty of the drown­ing increas­es, how­ev­er, the vic­tim might not be able to con­trol their move­ments. Have the strongest swim­mer swim out to the vic­tim, with oth­ers near­by to help as backup—the victim’s invol­un­tary, des­per­ate move­ments could put the res­cuer dan­ger (approach the vic­tim from behind, if pos­si­ble). The res­cuer should always bring a buoy or what­ev­er float­ing device is available.

Begin First Aid
Assess the sit­u­a­tion and begin first aid. Spe­cial­ized first aid might be need­ed, so seek out help if avail­able. Con­sid­er poten­tial caus­es for the drown­ing, like a heart attack, a seizure, or intoxication.

Pri­or­i­tize Your­self
If you are in a sit­u­a­tion where you are by your­self with the vic­tim, you need to put your own safe­ty first. Attempt any res­cue meth­ods that you can per­form safe­ly, but do not put your­self in a dan­ger­ous posi­tion, or you will like­ly end up as a vic­tim, too.

Wear a Life Jack­et
Sure, you might be an all-star swimmer—but for the sake of those that love you, wear a life jack­et when you’re on a boat. Peo­ple often under­es­ti­mate the dis­tances they would need to swim if there was an emer­gency, and swim­ming requires a lot of ener­gy. Cold water makes the sit­u­a­tion even more dif­fi­cult. So do your­self a favor, and don a life jacket.