How to Spot a Drowning Person

Real life is nothing like a movie.
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As adults, we know this truth yet we may not realize how deeply our perception of reality is shaped by Hollywood. Take drowning, for example. “Baywatch” may have depicted it as a dramatic, splash-and-scream event after which the submerged victim is pulled to shore, resuscitated with CPR, and seen shaking their lifeguard hero’s hand moments after coughing up water. In reality, true drowning looks radically different.

A recent article on Slate.com dispels the Hollywood myths and describes what people actually do in an aquatic emergency, known as Instinctive Drowning Response. A drowning person’s mouth bobs and sinks on the surface of the water. The urgent need to take a breath overrides the ability and desire to scream for help. Rather than flail their arms about, they are pressing on the water’s surface in attempt to brings their mouths above for air. A true drowning person is usually unable to even assist in their own rescue by grabbing onto a lifeline.

Some signs of how to spot a drowning person include:

  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Gasping and hyperventilating
  • Attempting to swim but not making headway
  • Attempting to roll over on their back
  • Appearing to climb an invisible ladder
  • In children: lack of noise because kids playing in the water make noise

Of course, this doesn’t mean a person waving their arms and crying for help isn’t in real distress. This is simply to serve as an important reminder that we must be ever vigilant watching our children around swimming pools.

Read the full article on Slate.com here.

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