Drowning: A silent killer

Topics: National, Water Safety
August 12, 2013

 We’ve all seen people flailing about and screaming while drowning on the big screen.  But the reality is, someone you love could be drowning a few feet away from you and you would never know it, because it doesn’t sound like anything.

“When people are drowning, all of their energy is going into trying to breathe and staying above water” says Shelley Dalke, manager, national swimming and water safety programs for the Canadian Red Cross. “So there’s absolutely no way they could scream for help and wave their hands around like you see in the movies.”

That’s why active supervision of children around the water is key. According to 2013 public opinion polling conducted by the Canadian Red Cross, nearly half of Canadian parents (48 per cent) believe they can effectively supervise children in the water by listening for signs of problems.

“Caregivers should always designate one person who is responsible for supervising children in, on or around water,” adds Dalke. “That person should never take their eyes off the child, not even for a second.”

Fewer than half (49 per cent) of Canadian parents believe that children always need supervision around water, regardless of their ability to swim. Children who cannot lift their face out of the water can drown in just a few centimetres. And many children who drown never intended to be in the water in the first place.

Watch for these six warning signs that someone is drowning:

  1. Struggling to keep their face above the water in an effort to breathe – head is low in the water, tilted back, and mouth is at water level
  2. Has arms extended to the side pressing down for support
  3. Has a vertical or approaching vertical body position with no supportive kick
  4. Might continue to struggle underwater, often facing the nearest point of safety, for example land, a person, shallow water, a buoyant support toy or a boat.  
  5. Inability to respond to the question: “Are you okay?”
  6. Silence
To find out what to do if someone is drowning; take a Red Cross first aid course. For more water safety tips, check here.
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