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Drowning: Know the Signs

While children are typically the focus of safety when it comes to swimming, anyone of any age can unfortunately be a victim of drowning. Even strong swimmers can become incapacitated and drown in a body of water. If you are a pool owner, it is a good idea to become knowledgeable about the indications that someone may be drowning or in distress. Someone who is drowning is typically not flailing around and yelling or screaming for help.

Instead, keep an eye out for these warning signs that someone is drowning:

  • Being quiet and not engaging with others in the pool.
  • Head tilted back and mouth hanging open.
  • Their eyes are closed or glassy and they seem to be unable to focus on you and what you are saying.
  • Their head is in the water and their mouth is at water level.
  • Unable to catch their breath, hyperventilating or gasping.
  • They are trying to roll over in the water onto their back.
  • They appear to be trying to swim somewhere but not really making any progress.
  • They are moving in an unusual way that appears like they are trying to climb up an invisible ladder that only they can see.

If you believe that someone is drowning, take action immediately in the following ways.

  • Get help from anyone around the pool by yelling for help to check on the person who is in distress and call 911 immediately if the person appears to be unconscious or is too far out of reach to get to immediately.
  • Speak calmly and quietly to the person in distress and try to help them relax and float by speaking to them. Talk to them about trying to keep their nose and mouth above the water.
  • Get a floatation device to the person as soon as possible for them to grab onto and tow them out of the water. It can be dangerous to reach for a person that is drowning as he or she may panic and trash and put other individuals in danger that are trying to help. 
  • If someone is unconscious, get them out of the water and turn them face up after calling 911 for help. A certified individual should begin performing CPR.

Prevention is truly the best way to have a fun and safe day around the pool. Always keep an eye on your youngest swimmers and have floatation devices on hand. For adults, be mindful of mixing alcohol and swimming as well as know your limits in the pool if you are not a strong swimmer. Take breaks to rest if you are not a strong swimmer and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration on a hot and humid day.

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