What does drowning look like in a pool? Not what you would expect. Several years ago as a camp counselor for a summer program for teens I experienced drowning first-hand. Under my and the other counselor’s supervision, the kids were rough-housing, walking in a circle and making the pool into a giant whirlpool. It took only a few seconds, one of the kids tripped or maybe the current caught him, and he went down. what are the signs of drowning

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I expected him to scream for help. He didn’t.   Drowning victims rarely yell for help in the water.  They are focused on getting air – yelling requires air to be present in the lungs, in most drowning cases, it’s not. I expected him to thrash and splash. He didn’t.   His arms were pushing water down at his side. Most drowning victims are either motioning with their hands like they are climbing up, like with a ladder, or they have their arms extended at their sides trying to push the water down and themselves up. I expected him to kick his legs and fight. He didn’t. While he was moving his legs it was not productive, more like they were floppy. While inside he was fighting for air, on the outside he looked more limp. I expected him to be facedown, sinking to the bottom. He wasn’t. He bobbed up and down in the water, he looked like he was above water, but as he bopped he was not able to get enough air to sustain himself and as he bopped down he gulped in water instead of air. I expected him to be “fine” in water he could stand in easily. He wasn’t. Drowning can occur in any depth of water.  In this case, the pool was 4 feet deep, and with an active current, it became  dangerous to that 5 ft something tall teen who had lost his footing.

What does Drowning Look Like?

According to Mario Vittone, a Coast Guard Member, here are additional signals that someone is drowning:
  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.
Thankfully, we were able to rescue the kiddo from that summer camp night. His face is forever imprinted into my memory. We were able to pull him from the pool and performed CPR on him. He vomited a couple of times and had bloodshot eyes, but other than, thankfully, he was fine.   And as summer is approaching, I hope that I will remember him and how fast the situation went from fun to an emergency in mere seconds and be a diligent mom with my kids this summer.

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