Swimming accidents happen, even under the watchful eyes of lifeguards and parents. About 10 Americans die from accidental drowning each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children ages 14 and under account for one in five drowning deaths. Nonfatal water incidents can trigger brain damage and other long-term issues, too.
Drowning doesn't look like drowning
If you think drowning involves splashing, waving or screaming for help, it’s likely you learned that from television dramas. In reality, drowning is deceivingly quiet. Here are some warning signs to watch for:
- Silence. A person who is drowning typically cannot breathe or yell for help. And, if children splashing in the water are mysteriously quiet, take notice.
- Bobbing and sinking. When someone in the water struggles for air, his mouth might briefly rise above the surface — just long enough for a quick gasp of air — before sinking again. Or, her head might be tilted back, low in the water.
- Lack of movement. Drowning individuals rarely thrash, yell or wave to attract attention. Sometimes, they can’t even reach for rescue equipment. Instead, they instinctively extend their arms and push down on the water, attempting to lift themselves above the surface to breathe.
- Lack of focus. Eyes that are glassy, unable to focus or closed entirely can signal trouble.
- Preventive Actions. Someone who appears to be climbing an invisible ladder or swims in a given direction with little progress may be in the early stages of distress.
If you're at the pool and someone goes missing, check the water first.
When it comes to drowning survival, every second counts. If you suspect a swimmer is struggling, ask. An individual who answers might not need immediate assistance. But, someone who responds with a blank stare likely needs urgent help.