Photo Credit: VanIsle.News staff with photo by Univ of Utah Health

Photo Credit: VanIsle.News staff with photo by Univ of Utah Health

You Probably Don’t Know What Drowning Looks Like

It doesn't look like the movies

Sometimes kids drown with adults nearby because adults don’t know the kid is struggling to survive

We’ve all seen what drowning looks like in the movies, right? Someone splashes around, their head goes under the water, and they come up again and scream “help!”

But that’s not what really happens.

This is another reminder that TV and movies are not real life.

In reality, drowning is really quiet.

I repeat: drowning is QUIET.

Real drowning looks so different than TV drowning that sometimes parents watch their kid die because they have no idea the child is in trouble.

Here’s why drowning is doesn’t look like TV or the movies:

  1. Drowning people’s mouths go under the water and then out of the water too quickly to breathe properly. They might gasp, but they don’t have enough air to yell. If they get water in their lungs, they really can’t call for help.
  2. Drowning people can’t wave. Our bodies instinctively try to push down on the water to bring ourselves up. We can’t help it. It’s like how you always close your eyes when you sneeze. A different part of our brain takes over.
  3. Drowning people can’t splash. Again, the part of their brain that is making the person push down on the water makes it really hard to splash around.

So what does drowning actually look like?

It looks like someone is trying to climb an invisible ladder, but their feet aren’t moving. The drowning person will stay upright, or look like they’re fighting to lay on their back, but they can’t.

A drowning person’s mouth will sit around the water level. Their eyes might be closed, or they’ll get glassy and out of focus.

When someone starts drowning, there is less than a minute to get to them. But make sure to keep yourself safe, so you don’t drown, too!

Bring them a floating ring or something they can grab on to that will help them float. Then, if you’re a strong swimmer, get your arms under their armpits, lay on your back, and use your legs to kick yourself to shore.

And call 911 for help. If someone has gotten close to drowning, they’ll need medical help ASAP.

Thankfully the number of people who drown on Vancouver Island has been going down since the 1970s. More kids learn to swim, and more people wear life jackets when they are out in boats.

But it’s still important to know what to look for. Then, you could save someone’s life.

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