With Memorial Day behind us, swimming season is official here! Drowning is the 6th leading cause of unintentional death or injury in the US, so before you jump into the pool or dip into the ocean to cool off, be sure you familiarize yourself with these important warning signs & tips:
8 Warning Signs of Silent Drowning
- A drowning person can’t call for help—they have to be able to breathe before they can speak. When a person is drowning, their mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for them to exhale, inhale, and call out.
- They can’t wave for help either. A drowning person instinctively extends their arms to the sides and presses down to lift their mouth out of the water; a child may extend their arms forward. He/she can’t use their arms to move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.
- A drowning person remains upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. They can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.
- Eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or closed.
- Hair may be over forehead or eyes.
- Head is low in the water, with mouth at water level; head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.
- Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore, pool deck, or dock. Ask them, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all, they probably are. If they returns a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them.
- Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.
10 Tips to Avoid Drowning (thanks to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers):
- HELP (Heat Escape Lessening Position) can save your life in cold water. This position is where your knees are drawn up to your chest with your arms grasping them together helping retain body temperature until you are rescued. Don’t remove wet clothing – additional layers of clothing can actually help you stay afloat by trapping air.
- Diving could be a neck-breaking experience, so never dive into unknown waters.
- If you’re swimming on an ocean beach with breaking waves, know that there is the potential for rip currents near the shore that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. If you get caught in one of these, swim parallel to shore until the current stops pushing you out.
- Never overestimate your swimming abilities, especially in open waters.
- Swim only in designated areas.
- Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
- Swim and boat sober. Drinking alcohol doesn’t only make you do things that you wished you had not done by impairing your judgment. People under the influence of alcohol have drowned because they become disoriented underwater and think they are swimming to the water surface, but in reality they are swimming down.
- If you are boating, wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim and don’t expect to enter the water. Falls overboard are one of the main reasons people drown because your first gasp (gasp reflex) after falling into the water can kill you. It only takes only 1 Tablespoon of water in your lungs to drown.
- Choose the right life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for you, and wear it. The new inflatable PFDs are lightweight.
- Don’t let anyone talk you into anything that you don’t want to do. You have a brain; use it because peer pressure can kill you. Don’t let someone’s actions or perceptions influence you to cross your stupid line. If you feel uncomfortable, leave the situation and stay alive.
While nothing can prevent every accident, it is important to note a person’s drowning has the greatest chance of survival if you are able to:
- Recognize the signs and get help
- Rescue and remove the person from the water (without endangering yourself or others)
- Call for emergency help
- Begin CPR
- Use an AED and transfer care to advanced life support