Drowning is Not What it Seems

Drowning is the second cause of accidental deaths in children.


Photo courtesy of Slate.com

While families head full speed ahead into the end of the school year, they are planning fun activities and summer camps. With the extreme summer temperatures, parents regularly schedule activities that involve water. Swimming at local pools, beaches, and water parks will be a major component of summertime fun. With that in mind, it is important for parents to pay attention their children’s water play. When a child is in danger signs of distress are not always clear.

Instinctive Drowning Response is the number two cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15 according to a recent Slate article. The reason being is that drowning does not look like drowning. The misconception is that a drowning child will yell, flail their arms, or incorporate other physical action to get attention. In those cases, however, the noticeable physical manifestations of drowning are none other than aquatic distress, which still requires attention. An actual drowning victim will experience a physiologically different response; one that is silent and unassuming. The Instinctive Drowning Response 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.”

Here is what actually happens:

  1. Physiologically unable to call for help.
  2. When mouths are above the surface, there are quick exhales and inhales and mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Cannot wave for help.
  4. Cannot voluntarily control arm movements (no moving toward rescuer or reaching out for rescue equipment)
  5. Bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick.

So, as you and your family choose to conquer summertime heat with a big splash, make sure to take necessary safety precautions (even if there is a lifeguard on duty). For younger children, parents can attach floatation devices. If your children are older or would rather not wear plastic accoutrements, encourage them to swim where the water is more shallow.

Here are other signs to recognize if someone is drowning.

What are some water safety measures you’ve used?





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