The signs of drowning aren’t what you might think

Parents often misunderstand the signs of drowning and how much to rely on the lifeguard. Some important safety tips as pools open for the summer.

Two-thirds of all drownings happen between May and August, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. The Norton Children’s Hospital emergency department typically sees an average of 19 drowning victims a year in these months. Sadly, most drownings are completely preventable. Know the signs of drowning.

“There are some safety precautions you can take to prevent drowning, and they’re very simple,” said Sharon Rengers, manager with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “It starts with knowing the signs of drowning, which are very misunderstood.”

Is drowning silent or loud?

“The movies show drowning as very active and loud, when in reality, victims don’t usually call out. They also usually keep their hands down at their sides so there is no splashing. It happens in under a minute once a child begins to struggle.”

Signs of drowning

  • Head low in the water with 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 in the water
  • 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

Understanding lifeguards and swimming lessons

If you’re at a pool with a lifeguard, you still need to watch your children. With many people in a pool at one time, you’re going to be able to know if your child is in trouble the fastest.

And even if your child has had swimming lessons, it doesn’t mean he or she won’t drown. Everyone’s swimming level is different, and all it takes is a child to get tired or swallow water for him or her to be at risk.

Safe swimming reminders

  • Don’t swim alone, especially children. Use the buddy system so there’s always someone looking out for you and loved ones.
  • At least one adult should supervise children around water at all times. Don’t let yourself get distracted by talking with friends, reading, drinking alcohol or using your phone when it’s your turn to supervise. Adult supervisors should be trained in CPR.
  • If you own a pool, make sure it has a fence completely surrounding it, separating it from the house.
  • Teach children lifesaving skills, such as how to float on their back, tread water and move to the side of the pool to climb out.
  • Don’t rely on inflatable toys and water wings to keep a child safe. Children can easily fall off of toys or slide out of wings and slip right under the water. If you’re using inflatables, you should be right there with a child, especially if he or she cannot swim.

Appointments 629-KIDS

Appointments

(502) 629-KIDS (5437)

Related Stories

How to prevent heart disease in children

In many cases, preventing heart disease in children can be accomplished with lifestyle changes. Preventable heart disease in children is increasing, likely tied to a widespread increase in childhood obesity. According to the Centers for […]

Read Full Story

How to dress a baby for cold weather

Although babies can go outside when it’s cold, their bodies aren’t equipped to handle the extreme temperatures yet. They shouldn’t be out in the elements for very long, and there are some precautions to take […]

Read Full Story

Flu hasn’t gone away; protect kids and older adults

Kids getting flu shots goes beyond keeping the children healthy and helps keep their grandparents healthy, according to Gary S. Marshall, M.D., infectious diseases physician with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School [...]

Read Full Story

With depression on the rise, focus on gun safety in the home

The spread of COVID-19 has slowed while restrictions are one by one receding into memory. Whatever the “new normal” looks like, it doesn’t mean there won’t be lingering effects of the pandemic. Now more than […]

Read Full Story

Kentucky’s child abuse rate outranks rest of country for third year in row; Indiana leads nation in deaths

For the third year in a row, Kentucky has the highest child abuse rate in the country. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau “Child Maltreatment 2019” report — released this year […]

Read Full Story

Search our entire site.