Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning
At the Center for Physical Rehabilitation, our Aquatic Therapy Practitioners have invested a lot of time making sure our patients are safe in our pools. We are certified in Aquatic Therapy, Water Safety, and chemical safety to ensure that our facility is safe for our patients and staff. But with Memorial Day past and the summer season in full swing, are you prepared to keep yourself and your family safe near the water?
If you spend time in or near the water, you need to know what to look for whenever people of any age enter the water. The "Instinctive Drowning Response", named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., 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 drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children ages 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 some of those drowning, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. The most commonly overlooked signs include a person’s head low in the water with the head tilted back and a person who appears to be climbing an invisible ladder.
This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Aquatic distress doesn’t last long, usually between 30 and 60 seconds, but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.
Here are some tips from the Drowning Prevention Foundation to keep your family safe around the water:
- Children and inexperienced swimmers should ALWAYS wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket when around the water.
- Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
- Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards such as deep areas and changing currents. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to get hurt.
- Drain inflatable pools and coolers after each use. A toddler can drown in just one inch of water.
- Stay within arms length of inexperienced swimmers.
- Teach kids to never swim alone.
- Learn CPR.
- Don’t let kids dive into water less than nine feet deep.
- Swimming lessons and life jackets do not replace supervision. Always watch kids in and around water. Drowning is quick and silent – it can happen in less than a minute.
- When many people are near the pool at the same time, assign a water watcher. Don’t assume someone else is watching!
- Keep a phone nearby so you can quickly call 911 in an emergency.
Never overestimate a person’s swimming ability. When in doubt, just ask, “Are you alright?” If they can answer you, they probably are. Have a safe and fun summer in the water!