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.
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.Parents need to be even more alert at the pool or beach than they think.
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....
*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.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.