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What Drowning Actually Looks Like

With summer in full swing, many of us will likely be spending some time in the water. Whether you are taking a dip in the ocean or diving into a swimming pool, there is always a potential for a drowning accident, especially for children. Surprisingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 80% of drowning accidents involving children occur under supervision. How is this possible? Unfortunately, those who are watching often cannot recognize the signs of drowning because it does not actually look the way it appears in so many of the movies we are familiar with. With no true point of reference for what drowning looks like, it is impossible to get to a victim in time for a successful rescue.

Recognizing the Signs of Drowning

People tend to think that drowning involves a lot of splashing and flailing about. According to Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., however, drowning victims rarely call out for help or waive for help due to what he refers to as an “instinctive drowning response.”

The instinctive drowning response is described by Dr. Pia as:

  • Drowning victims cannot call for help due to the trauma their respiratory experiences during such an incident. Since speech is secondary to breathing, the act of struggling to breathe renders them unable to yell for help.
  • When a person is drowning, the mouth does not stay above the surface long enough for the victim to exhale and inhale or call for help. Instead, the mouth of a drowning victim will sink before he or she ever gets a chance to breathe.
  • To lift the mouth out of the water to breathe, a drowning victim will press down on the surface of the water to gain leverage. However, this means he or she will be unable to wave for help.
  • Another reason why victims of drowning cannot wave for help is because they often cannot control the movements of their arms. The struggle to try to remain above water is so strong that they are generally unable to wave for help or even reach out for a lifesaver.
  • It is possible for a person who is drowning to struggle anywhere from 20 seconds to a whole minute. During this time, the victim tends to remain upright and will not appear to be kicking, contrary to what many people expect from drowning victims.

Although it is not common for those who are drowning to yell for help or thrash in the water, that does not mean they are not suffering from distress if they do. Some victims do not present the symptoms of instinctive drowning response immediately and are able to partake in their own rescue.

Other signs of drowning you should be aware of include:

  • Hyperventilation
  • Closed eyes
  • Tilted head and open mouth
  • Unsuccessful attempts to swim in a particular direction
  • Hair covering the forehead

Contact a Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorney Today!

At Anderson Boutwell Traylor, our experienced team of personal injury attorneys has the knowledge and insight necessary to help you obtain compensation if you or a loved one was injured in a drowning accident due to someone else’s negligence.

Contact our law office today at (985) 796-2245 to schedule a free case review.