Would You Know When Someone Is Drowning? You May Not
Although it’s cold outside, summer is right around the corner. And summer will mean pool weather. Most of us think we know a lot about pool safety. But how much do you really know about drowning?
Classic Signs? Maybe Not
Do you think you could spot someone who was drowning? You’d probably look for splashing, floundering about, or someone yelling for help. The problem is that you’d be wrong—despite what we see in the media, those aren’t telltale signs of someone who is in trouble in the water.
Myths About Drowning
In fact, arms do not flail about frantically when someone is in trouble in the water, as arms usually are under the surface of the water. In fact, someone’s arms may be flailing under the water’s surface, trying so hard to keep their body as high as possible, they may even be unable to reach for a preserver, or the ledge of a pool.
This is why you shouldn’t think someone in the pool is fine, because he or she is near something they could reach out and grab.
In fact, someone who is drowning often will have their eyes closed, making them unable to even see or grab anything nearby.
Not Much Sound
People who drown are often not yelling and screaming. They are preserving their breath—that’s if they can keep their mouths above water for any extended period of time. In an effort to keep their mouths above water, many victims may roll around so that they are facing upwards—hardly a position most people associate with drowning.
With their hands preoccupied, they may not be able to get hair out of their mouths, another obstacle that can prevent victims from crying out for assistance.
Although it is not foolproof, as a general rule, if you ask someone if they are OK and they answer that they are, it is a good sign—it means they can speak, and keep themselves afloat long enough to vocalize.
Monitors: Listen for Silence
With little or no ability to vocalize, it means that monitors—whether they be parents, supervisors or lifeguards—need to use their eyes, and not rely on being able to hear someone cry out for help.
All of this means that if you are monitoring, you should be just as aware—and concerned for—people who are too quiet. Drowning is usually a silent endeavor, and one that can easily and quickly escape the notice of nearby observers.
Young children can present a special challenge to observers. Even if they do flail and scream when they are in distress, these sounds can often sound exactly like children playing. The bottom line when it comes to children, is that kids need to be watched carefully, and the pool should not be treated like a babysitter.