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Health Talk Recommends: Know the true signs of drowning

Photo from Flickr user OpenThreads

Summer is a great time for hitting the water, but whether you’re a beach bum or a pool enthusiast, it’s important to keep one eye on safety. Know the true signs of drowning.

When someone is drowning, most people assume waving, splashing and cries for help will precede a person being in true peril, giving ample time for bystanders to help. But according to a recent article on, drowning is generally not so animated.

“Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult,” writes author Mario Vittone in the Slate article. “In some of these cases, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening,”

To best describe the scene of a real drowning, Vittone cites Frank A. Pia, Ph.D., an expert in the area of drowning. Pia calls the actions people take to avoid drowning the “Instinctive Drowning Response,” indicating that the fight to breathe overrules attempts to call or wave for help.

Watch a video explaining the Instinctive Drowning Response

According to the Slate article, things to watch for include:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy or empty
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

The best way to tell quickly if someone is struggling is to simply ask, “Are you all right?” If there’s no response, the person is probably not fine. Move quickly to assist as drowning can happen quickly, in less than 30 seconds.

Drowning is scary, but preventable. Practice water safety and encourage swimming only when others are nearby.

More on summer safety:

Keep your food safe outdoors

Staying hydrated in the heat

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