Many people think they know what drowning looks like, but the signs of drowning are actually more subtle than you might realize. Knowing the signs of active drowning is extremely important, because it can happen quickly and quietly; even the most experienced swimmers can be at risk. If you witness the following symptoms in someone, they may be drowning and you may need to take action:
- Silence: Movies and TV shows often portray drowning as loud and crazy. In reality, most drowning victims are gasping for breath and may be hyperventilating. As they are unable to breathe, victims are also physiologically unable to call for help.
- Vertical Position: While a drowning person remains conscious, they will be in a vertical position underwater. You may see their head bobbing up and down at the surface of the water.
- Head tilted back: As water begins to cover the drowning person’s face, it is likely that they will tilt their head back as they try to keep their airways clear. However, it is important to note that infants whose heads are heavy in relation to their bodies are unable to hold themselves up and may appear face down in the water.
- Arms moving downward: Although commonly thought of as a drowning response, drowning people cannot wave their arms around or reach out for a floating device. When drowning, victims instinctively extend their arms towards their feet and press down on the water’s surface in attempt to push themselves up and breathe. This movement can look like someone pushing up on a hard surface as they stand up.
One of the best ways to prevent drowning is to learn basic water safety. If you or your child is not yet water safe, sign up for swimming lessons to learn these skills! You can also help rescue a drowning victim using skills taught in a variety of our health and safety courses.