Will you recognize drowning when you see it?

If you're like most people, you've never heard of the instinctive drowning response. Most of us think that a drowning person will call for help, arms waving and splashing. According to Dr. Francesco A. Pia, these signs show aquatic distress, which occurs before the instinctive drowning response.

People who are drowning typically:

  • Are not able to yell for help because they are trying to breathe
  • Are unable to wave their arms
  • Cannot keep their mouth from sinking below the water's surface

The lack of noise and activity tricks people who are not trained to recognize the instinctive drowning response. They don't realize what is actually happening. Unfortunately, when a person reaches this stage, they can fight drowning for only 20 to 60 seconds.

What to look for

How will you know whether someone is drowning? Watch for the following signals:

  • Gasping
  • Not kicking their legs
  • Body is vertical in the water
  • Eyes are glassy or closed
  • Mouth is at or below the water
  • Mouth is open and head tilted back
  • Trying to climb in the water

Call to the person and ask if they are okay. If they are in the instinctive drowning response stage, they will most likely be unable to answer you because they are trying to breathe.

It is best if trained lifeguards attempt to rescue someone who is drowning, but this is not always possible. If you are going to attempt a rescue, don't put yourself in danger. Read these tips.

Who is responsible for water safety?

When a person drowns, the victim and his or her family may need compensation to cover medical costs and additional losses if the victim dies. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a liable party whose negligence caused the accident.

If your family has experienced this tragic loss, speak with a lawyer to learn whether you can pursue compensation.

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