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Drowning is silent: protect your children

Drowning is a quiet event
Drowning is a quiet event
Photo by Rachel Murray

Drowning deaths of 4 children reported, including 3-year-old boy.” This was the headline on June 15, 2014 reported by Rosemary Regina Sobol of the Chicago Tribune. Unfortunately many children face accidental drowning in the summer months. In the United States, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to 14 and the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to four, according to the National SAFEKID Campaign. Most drowning’s among infants under the age of one occur in bathtubs; while most drowning’s among children ages one to four occur at pools. Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water; therefore, they are at risk of drowning in wading pools, bath and hot tubs, buckets, diaper pails, and toilets. A child drowning can occur quickly and silently in a matter of seconds, and typically occurs when a child is left unattended. The idea that a drowning victim will make noise while thrashing around in the water is not accurate. According to Aviation Survival Technician First Class Mario Vittone and Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D, drowning is almost always a quiet event. The Instinctive Drowning Response is what people do to avoid suffocation in the water.

“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.

Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

There are many things that can be done to prevent In-Home drowning deaths. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests the following:

▪Never leave a baby alone in a bathtub.

▪Teach children to swim once he or she is ready (usually around 5 years old).

▪Keep a life preserver in the pool area to help pull a child to the edge of the pool when necessary.

▪Don‘t let young children and children who cannot swim use inflatable toys or mattresses in water that is above the waist.

Check out CBS Local for the best places in St. Louis for swim classes.

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