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Rick Shapiro
Rick Shapiro
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With the summer swimming season upon us, know what to look for in drowning cases.

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With the summer upon us it is important to remember pool safety and how to spot distressed swimmers and drowning children that you may encounter while in the water. Lifeguards are trained to recognize pool and beach goers in trouble, but as concerned citizens we much also keep watch to ensure that every has a fun and safe time this summer.

Instrinctive drowning response, named by Frencesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is how people react to avoid the real or perceived act of suffocation in the water. Drowning does not look as many would expect. Typically, drowning individuals are unable to call for help, with their brain functions devoted completely to breathing when they sense potential danger. As an individual begins to drown they will move below the surface, sometimes bobbing, but quickly sinking below the water. As the individual sinks, instead of the classic "waiving for help" response, they will actually push down with their hands instinctively to attempt to boost themselves out of the water. A typcial drowning victim can last between 20 to 60 seconds before full submersion occurs.

The following signs are important to recognize in a potential drowning victim:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs—vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

Now, many do kick and splash and yell for help in distress, but this is not due to drowning. These actions are a result of a swimmer in distriess. These swimmers are not powerless to help themselves like those who experience drowning, but can actually aid the rescurer in coming to their assistance by grabbing onto poles, buoys, or other rescue devices.

As you take to the water this summer, remember, be on the look out. Lend a hand and save a life!