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Will You Recognize When Someone Is Drowning?

With summer months fast approaching, children and adults alike will soon try to take a break from the heat by visiting pools, ponds, rivers and other recreational swimming spots. As a casual onlooker, however, will you be able to recognize the signs of someone struggling to stay above water from harmless horse-play?

What are the physical signs of drowning?

Active drowning can begin within 20 seconds of a person showing the first signs of distress. It is unlikely that this person will be able to call for help. There are numerous other facts to remember, including:

  • Even if a drowning victim remains vertical in the water, he or she will not be able to move toward safety.
  • Once drowning has begun, he or she will likely lose arm control – thus, the victim will not be able to wave or otherwise signal for help.
  • Active drowning victims will typically only struggle on the surface for 20 to 60 seconds before being submerged.
  • As an instinctive reaction, active drowning victims will tilt their heads back so the mouth and nose are above water.

Are There Different Types Of Drowning Scenarios?

Many of the notes above directly reference active downing, but the converse can be true. Some drowning victims can be passive or simply distressed. For example, a swimmer who has become tired or suffered a cramp might lose the ability to swim to safety. These are typically referred to as “distressed swimmers.”

A passive drowning victim is one who is unconscious. A medical condition such as a heart attack or stroke or physical interference such as being struck by a boat or floating log can result in the loss of consciousness. While this individual might float, he or she will be unable to call for help or swim to safety.

Commonly, you will recognize a tired swimmer. He or she has simply overdone it for the day. Likely, they will be able to call for assistance, but not always. This type of swimming victim might search out another person to cling to in order to keep themselves afloat.

Know Your Limitations

If there is a lifeguard on duty, it is best to alert this individual to what you have witnessed. Many times, people will attempt to spring into action, only to be dragged down beneath the water’s surface by a drowning victim who is wildly flailing. You can always plan ahead by ensuring you have the strong swimming skills necessary to be a benefit to those around you. Additionally, it is wise to take a CPR course – even offered online for educational purposes – to ensure you have the knowledge handy to save the life of a friend, family member or co-worker.

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Lake Charles, Louisiana


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