How to spot the key signs of drowning and what you can do to save someone

ABC7 spoke with an expert about understanding the signs of drowning and what to do in the situation.

Ashley Mackey Image
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
How to tell if someone is drowning
ABC7 spoke with an expert about understanding the signs of drowning and what to do in the situation.

It's a family pastime that a lot of people love... swimming with your kids. Here's how to stay safe in the water this summer by knowing how to recognize the signs of drowning.

"Water safety includes learning to swim, but it also includes parents and caregivers and relatives becoming educated on how barriers and supervision work to prevent drowning," said Dr. William Ramos of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.

The CDC reports that about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day and of the 10, two are children aged 14 or younger.

Between 2010 and 2019, drowning was the leading cause of death among kids one to four.

ABC7 spoke with Dr. Ramos to get some tips on how to spot a child that may be actively drowning.

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"One of the biggest myths is that it's this big, elaborate kind of event that we often see portrayed on media and many times, it's a silent event," said Dr. Ramos.

"Arms can be out horizontally, kind of flapping a little bit. Head tilted back, anything the body can do to try to preserve airflow," said Dr. Ramos. "But often these are very inefficient, awkward movements, so that's something people can look for."

"You would see somebody in a more vertical position, making no progress in the water," Dr. Ramos continued. "Having seen this myself and many years in water safety, I can tell you, a panic look in the eyes, in the face that you just can't ignore your intuition will tell you that person's in trouble."

Dr. Ramos said people should know about "The Chain of Drowning Survival." First in the chain is the need to recognize the signs of someone in trouble and to shout for help. Then rescue and remove the person from water, without getting in, if possible.

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"The safest rescues are the ones where you don't have to get in," Dr. Ramos said. "We see many stories where somebody just out of the situation jumps in and then becomes another drowning victim."

Tell someone to call 9-1-1 or if you're alone give two minutes of care then make the call yourself.

"We recommend most people if you're going to be around an aquatic setting, have CPR training, resuscitation training so you could provide some care," said Dr. Ramos. "And then at the end, if depending on their situation, if an AED [automated external defibrillator] is available, you may have to use that."

Dr. Ramos said swimming lessons are important, but understanding water safety, like how to use barriers and different swim aids, will make a big difference.

"The water is engaging, it's fun, it's restorative," said Dr. Ramos. "We want people in the water, just going out with an understanding of the bigger picture."

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