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"Drowning doesn't look like drowning"

Posted by Christopher Shea  July 15, 2010 12:05 PM

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According to this terrifying post, half of the children who drown accidentally do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. (What's more, "In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.")* A key problem is that people are conditioned by TV and film to think that someone in danger of drowning will call for help and splash about. They don't, always.

The piece begins with an anecdote in which an experienced lifeguard rescues a girl while her parents look on, confused and even irritated by what they think is unnecessary fuss.

pool.jpg

According to the post, here are some of the actual signs of drowning (which the author, Mario Vittone, carefully attributes to Francesco A. Pia, a water-safety consultant):

1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
2. Drowning people's mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water....
3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water's surface....
4. [D]rowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment....

Parents need to be even more alert at the pool or beach than they think.

*I added that parenthetical after re-reading the original article. It is vague, however--and therefore I am, too--about which number the 10 percent refers to.
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