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PSA: Drowning...aka "I had NO idea it looked like that"

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – 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. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

Drowning doesn't look like drowning

Since this article came out and was posted on our local API list, a child was saved from drowning. I had NO idea that this was what drowning looked like. I am still a child of the 80's and frantic Jaw's splashing. How silent and deadly. I hope that you pass this on...it just might save a life!

Sarah B.
post #2 of 24
Thank you for this. I reposted it to my FB.
post #3 of 24
Shared on FB.
post #4 of 24
Wow, thank you. Also posted to FB. This is one of my biggest fears!
post #5 of 24
So important, I wish more people, especially parents knew this. I get nervous at the beach because there are so many times I see a child start to struggle and the parent is RIGHT THERE and not realizing what is happening. I usually grab the child and pull them upright or to where they can touch (because usually I see it when the kid has taken a couple too many steps and can barely touch) and the parent looks at me like "WTH are you doing to me child?" Just Thursday I saw a kid go down in the shallow area of the beach. He didn't cry, he didn't make any noise, he had just lost his footing and fell backwards and couldn't get himself back up right. There were adults all around him and I was on the beach, I started to run to him but he fortunately caught himself again. He definitely swallowed quite a bit of water and was very upset/scared after, if he went under one more time he wasn't coming back up. Mom, couldn't understand why he was so scared and brushed it off.

When we went through LG training the most important thing they drilled into us was the signs of drowning. Its not about screaming and splashing, its what you DON'T see that is important and body position in the water.

They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.
Honestly, if you are comfortable in water and can swim I highly recommend doing lifeguard training. I think its just as important as First Aid and CPR training for families who spend a lot of time in water. Even if everyone in your family are great swimmers, accidents can still happen.
post #6 of 24
Thank you for posting this. I also shared it on facebook.
post #7 of 24
Shared on FB.
post #8 of 24
Yup, as a former lifeguard, I can attest to this. Struggling swimmers who realize they're in trouble are quite dramatic (flailing, splashing, yelling, waving) and easy to spot. Those who are actually drowning are pretty... quiet and easily not-noticed unless you're specifically looking for the signs (vertical position, etc.).
post #9 of 24
These are much older threads, but someone used to post a version of it almost every single year:
2004: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=151496
2006: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=468167
2007: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=151496

Thought I'd add them to this thread.
post #10 of 24
Thanks for sharing, I reposted on fb. Our children's hospital sent out a warning this week about drownings in our area. We've had 19 children treated for drowning/near drownings in the last 5 weeks, 8 of which died. Last year at this time there had only been 4 treated with 1 death. They said that in the majority of cases, the parents were right there. Very sad (and very scary).
post #11 of 24
Gosh, that's scary, I had no clue I'll repost to fb!
post #12 of 24
Thanks OP for posting this and thanks to the PP that posted the links to those old threads. The timing couldn't have been better for me. My daughter is starting swim lessons next week. She's never been in a real pool before, and I won't be able to be in the water with her. From what I've heard from friends, the kids just play in the shallow end while they wait their turn with the instructor. I'm a little nervous now, but at least I know what to look for if she gets in trouble and that I need to actively watch her and not get to chatting or reading by the pool. I'm not on FB, but I'll do what I can to pass it along.
post #13 of 24
Yeah, I took lifeguarding a couple yrs ago (was just something I'd always wanted/ment to do and I finally had the oppertunity to do so...), and it really is very different than you think.

I've read a couple threads on here and another board recently, and its always a good reminder at this time of year to be vigilant - even (maybe especially!) if there is an actual life guard around, because it can give you, your kids, other people, etc a false sense of security.
post #14 of 24
Thank you! I re-posted on FB.
post #15 of 24
I am convinced that my daughter saved a little boy's life when they were both four. They were in a (private) pool, along with about 10 older kids. Three moms were sitting on the steps, I was on the side. Rain was wearing water wings and the other little boy was on a raft, where the water was about 3 feet deep (the shallow end). It was loud, with lots of yelling and splashing and laughing.

Apparently, the little boy slipped off the raft and sunk to the bottom of the pool, and Rain was the only person to see him. She started shouting but I couldn't hear her over the other noise, so I got closer to her and she pointed at the raft and yelled, "Emergency, emergency!"

I realized what had happened, looked quickly at the other moms (who were oblivious - including the boy's mom) and jumped in. He was lying on the bottom of the pool, so I scooped him up and brought him to the surface. He didn't struggle at all, and when we got the the surface he looked a bit startled but was breathing fine... and the other moms were just staring at me.

I tried to explain what had happened but they totally blew it off and just couldn't seem to see that there had been any sort of danger... because it had been so quiet, I guess, until I leapt in and emerged with him. I was shaking, I was so scared. *No one* saw him except Rain. I don't think he was under for more than a few seconds... but it could easily have been many minutes before anyone noticed him there.

ETA: Apparently I told this story in 2004, too!
post #16 of 24
When my dd was 3 she slipped off her raft. I was standing right there. RIGHT THERE! and byu the time I noticed she was even missing (her sister commented on how good her underwater swimming was) and pulled her up she was blue and not breathing. fortunately she started again soon but even though we were all arms length from each other none of us noticed what was going on. It was totally silent.
post #17 of 24
Thank you for posting that.
post #18 of 24
Originally Posted by ThisCat View Post
I'm a little nervous now, but at least I know what to look for if she gets in trouble and that I need to actively watch her and not get to chatting or reading by the pool.
I see parents all the time at the public pools, barely keeping an eye on their kids. I almost drowned several times in shallow water as a child so I am the parent watching constantly. At one of our pools, there is a corner that is a couple inches deeper than the rest which is the shallow "kiddy" pool, probably a drain in the floor causes it. My dd got stuck in there, on her tip toes, with waves from kids playing pushing her back into the corner. She looked like she was just bobbing up and down playing, her mouth going under a bit as the water sloshed into the corner. When I looked at her face I could tell she was in trouble and when I asked her, she couldn't reply. I immediately pulled her forward, to where she could touch. It can happen super quick. DD just reminded me that the lifeguard was *right there* while this happened too, almost under his feet and he was looking out over the pool, not down to where she was.
post #19 of 24
Sad and scary to say that I've actually had this happen. We have a lake where we just moved from and ds was 6, right infront of me and directly next to our neighbor. She was in the water and I was on the dock, 3 feet from him. It was his first time in the water without his life jacket on. I didn't realize how much he relied on the side of the pool and thought he was a stronger swimmer than I thought. The dock was higher than he could reach, he was 2 feet from the ladder but didn't realize it and he started to drowned. The neighbor was completely clueless, she and I and another lady were talking not noticing him until finally and thankfully I noticed he was very quiet and something wasn't right. I grabbed him and pulled him to the ladder. He was so mad that I didn't "see him" having a hard time. It was the oddest thing and so scary but he wasn't flailing about wildly or crying or asking for help or swimming the 2 feet to the ladder.

Glad that there's a PSA about it.
post #20 of 24
Thank you, I'm sharing this.
I was coming on here to post it now, searched first though and found this.
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