Often when people think of drowning they think of it as a noisy process that includes screaming, shouting, splashing the water, flailing, waving, and gasping. This may be true for movies, but for the real world that is the exact opposite. Such noise would result in very little or no drowning accidents, yet that is far from correct. So how does drowning really look like and why has it taken so many lives? That question may be answered with the simple fact that drowning is in fact a silent killer. The Instinctive Drowning Response helps to correctly describe the characteristics of a drowning person. The first and most important fact is that, “except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.” This means that it is usually illogical that you'll hear anything from a drowning person. What's even more frightening than this realization is the fact that many adults are unfamiliar with this characteristic of drowning. Astonishingly, a small percentage of parents watched the whole process unsure of what was going on, according to the CDC. This clearly illustrates how little people know about drowning.
So what does it look like?
A drowning person's mouth sinks below the surface of the water and rises for air. A drowning person never has time to exhale, inhale, and then scream. They merely have enough time to breath, and, going back to the first fact, breathing must occur before speech can happen. Additionally, don't expect any waving. As stated by the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arms. They have one objective in mind and that is to breathe air. There is just simple no time to perform actions such as screaming and waving—it only takes “20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.” Now that you know how a typical drowning person thinks, its best to know their various actions so you can have an eye out for any signs of this “silent killer”.
- Head beneath water, mouth at water level
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Eyes are unable to focus or closed
- Not using legs
- Body is vertical and upright
- Try to swim but not moving
- Try to roll over on back
These signs won't be beneficial if you are not paying attention. Always focus and pay attention when near water because you could save a life. Since drowning is silent, we can only observe it through our vision. So always watch for any suspicious behavior! To be even more prepared for the water register for a class today!