Love the water? Here are 8 tips to recognize drowning.

By the Chief

Drowning is the second-most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 (just behind motor vehicle accidents). 90% of children who have drowned, did so while under the care of an adult or a teenager. Lack of attention, or understanding the signs of drowning, is why rescuing was too late.

Unfortunately, drowning doesn’t always look like drowning. To ward off a tragedy in the making, watch for these signs that someone is in trouble.

1. They can’t call for help—someone has to be able to breathe before they can speak. When a person is drowning, the mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for them to exhale, inhale, and call out.
2. They can’t wave for help. A drowning person instinctively extends arms to the sides and presses down to lift mouth out of the water; a child may extend arms forward. They can’t use their arms to move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.
3. They remain upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. Kids can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.
4. Their eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or closed.
5. Their face may be hard to see; hair may be over forehead or eyes.
6. Their Head is low in the water, with mouth at water level; head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.
7. They are quiet. Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.
8. They don’t seem in distress. Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they are drowning. They may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore, pool deck, or dock. Ask, “Are you all right?” If they can answer, they probably are ok. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them.

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