It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Hell, it’s every person’s nightmare — at least one of them. Drowning ranks up there with being burned alive and clowns just being clowns. It’s scary stuff, but it probably doesn’t happen how you imagine it.
Drowning isn’t all about flailing arms and screaming for help. The battle — which is the second-most common cause of accidental death among kids — is mostly a quiet struggle. According to Slate, “in 10 per cent of drownings, adults are nearby but have no idea the victim is dying.”
Terrifying, right? The video asks, “What does drowning look like?” And the answer is simple: NOTHING like it does on TV. Here’s what you need to look out for, because trust us, you won’t be hearing anything.
Head is low, or tilted back with mouth open
Their head is low in the water with mouth at water level or tilted back in an attempt to breathe (though a child’s head may fall forward). Also, their face might be difficult to spot as their hair may be covering the forehead or eyes. And speaking of eyes, they’re usually either closed, darting and unable to focus or glassy.
They can’t call for help
A person can only speak if they can breathe so when someone is drowning, their mouth bobs above and below the surface of the water. There isn’t time to inhale, exhale and call out; just gasping, maybe even hyperventilating. Kids playing in the water always make noise. When they’re quiet, you need to get to them to see what’s going on.
They can’t wave for help, either
The first instinct of a drowning person is to extend arms to the sides and press down to lift their mouth out of the water (though a child may extend their arms forward), so raising arms isn’t happening. Even moving towards a rescuer or reaching for rescue equipment isn’t happening.
No leg movement
They remain upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. Or it appears as though they’re trying to swim but not making any headway, or attempting to roll over onto their back. Drowning people struggle for a mere 20 to 60 seconds before going under.
They don’t appear in distress
Perhaps the scariest fact of all is someone who’s drowning simply doesn’t look like they’re drowning. The best way is to ask if they’re all right. If they answer, they’re probably fine, but if all you get is a blank stare in return, you need to get to them right away.
After reading all of this, it goes without saying — always keep lifesaving gear near any body of water or pool. You don’t know when you might need it.