Drowning: What Every Parent Must Know

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On average, two children under age 15 die each day in the U.S. from unintentional drowning, and the summer months account for the majority of incidents. Five times as many will require emergency treatment for nonfatal submersion injuries, which can result in severe damage to the brain and long-term disabilities.

The home swimming pool is still where most childhood drownings happen, whether at your home or the home of a friend or family member.  Here’s a chilling statistic: half of all children who will drown next year will do so within a mere 25 yards of an adult.  Let that sink in.  Only 25 yards away, yet an adult will not notice that a child is drowning and needs help.

So, if a child was in trouble in the water, would you recognize it?  What do you think it would look like?  If you immediately imagine her screaming for help, or him splashing and kicking and waving his arms, think again. Most of us would picture drowning that way because that’s how it’s portrayed in the movies and on television, but it’s not reality.

Drowning in real life looks and sounds very different.
Here are some ways to help you recognize it:

No Noise is Bad News! Children make noise.  If they’re quiet, get to them and find out why!  If a child is in aquatic distress, they may be able to shout, and you shouldn’t ignore their pleas. But if they’re in real trouble, they may be physiologically unable to call for help.  Natural instinct will take over and the brain will prioritize primary functions, such as breathing, over secondary functions such as speech.

Don’t Wait for a Wave for Help! A drowning child will instinctively struggle on the surface of the water to lift their mouth out enough to breathe.  They will do so by pressing down on the surface of the water with their arms to the side, leaving them no option to raise their arms above them to wave.

Don’t Count on Kicking! – Part of the “Instinctive Drowning Response” is that a child’s body will remain upright in the water, with little to no kicking.  Again, the autonomic response is to struggle to keep the mouth above water to breathe.

Watch for these other red flags:

  • Hair over the eyes
  • Eyes glassy and unable to focus, or eyes closed
  • Head low in the water, with mouth at water level
  • Hyperventilating or gasping for air
  • Trying to roll over to back
  • Appear as if trying to climb
  • Be aware that a child in this state will not be able to respond to directions or assist in their own rescue.  They are not in a state of conscious control.

Prevention is key!  That is why Aqua-Tots Swim Schools is so passionate about teaching water safety.   Learn to recognize the signs of drowning, and consider enrolling your children in swim lessons so they can learn Safety First, Fun Every Second!

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