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Everyone has seen the TV version of drowning: The victim is splashing, kicking and screaming for help. Unfortunately, this depiction is not reality. Drowning is actually a very quiet event. Below are several key information points about drowning, so that you can keep your family safe this pool season.

What Drowning Really Looks Like


A person who is drowning is usually unable to call out for help. The victim is generally in a vertical position, bobbing up and down on the water. They are only able to keep their mouth above water long enough to exhale and quickly inhale on the way back into the water. Their arms do not wave above the surface to call for help; the arms are constantly pushing on the water, trying to raise the body out of the water. This is called the instinctive drowning response.

What It Means

Because of the instinctive drowning response, a drowning victim is unable to help in their own rescue. They will not be able to grab a rope or ring if one is thrown to them, and they will not be able to swim to a rescuer. In fact, they may even struggle when you try to rescue them, because they are still trying to push themselves above the water. Keep in mind that their adrenaline is pumping, and by the time they are rescued, they may still feel they cannot breathe, because the epiglottis spasms shut to prevent more water from entering the lungs.

First Aid for Drowning Victims

Ask someone to call 911 immediately. Once you have pulled the victim from the pool, determine if they are conscious and breathing and if they have a pulse. This is information that 911 will need in order to send the correct resources for the situation.

If the victim is not breathing, perform CPR if you know how. The 911 operator will walk you through what you need to do, so keep them on the phone until first responders arrive. Usually, the 911 operator will ask you to place your hands together on the victims chest and push down on the chest at a rate of about 100 to 120 times a minute.

If the victim is conscious, provide re-assurance, and speak calmly. They are likely experiencing a lot of fear. Wrap the victim in a towel or blanket to keep them warm, and wait for 911 to arrive.

The Importance of Seeking Medical Attention After a Near Drowning

Once rescued, a victim of drowning needs to be examined by a doctor. Whether you use chlorine or salt to treat your pool, these are substances that can cause serious damage to the lungs, including delayed pulmonary edema which leads to dry drowning.

What You Can Do

Keep an eye on your kids and guests. Remember, if the kids are making noise, they are not yet drowning. Watch for signs of distress, and help children before they need help. Never allow children to swim alone, and keep your pool fenced off to prevent children from falling in. Consider taking a CPR class, so that if you need it for any reason, you are prepared.

Tyler Long is a professional blogger the shares that latest news and information on aquatic exercise and therapy. He writes for SwimEx, where you can find the best lap swimming pools and multi-purpose swimming pools.