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Healthy living 101: What does drowning look like?

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Summer has finally arrived in Minnesota! As we flock to pools and beaches, it is important to review what drowning looks like as it is not what most people may think.

Drowning most often does not match our preconceived notions of yelling and screaming for help while frantically waving arms in the water. Rather, the drowning victim may be silent and appear to be just fine with little, if any, splashing or flailing. The victim is generally unable to call for help and will be using all available oxygen to breathe while struggling to stay above water. The victim will silently slip under water and drown, sometimes within just a few feet of others, which is why it is important to know the signs of drowning and vigilantly watch for them.

Below are some of the signs of drowning:

• A drowning person cannot call for help and has to be able to breathe before she can speak. When a person is drowning, her mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There is not time for her to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.

• A drowning person cannot wave for help as she will instinctively extend her arms to the sides and press down to lift her mouth out of the water. A child may extend her arms forward.

• A drowning person remains upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. She can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.

• A drowning person’s eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or may be closed.

• A drowning person’s hair may be over her forehead or eyes.

• A drowning person’s head is low in the water, with her mouth at water level. The head may also be tilted back with her mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.

Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that she does not look like she is drowning. She may seem to be looking up at the sky, shore, pool deck, or dock. Ask her, “Are you all right?” If she does not answer and returns a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to her. Also, children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.

The best way to know is to view what drowning looks like, so please take a few moments to view the video links below:
KARE 11 News: Warning signs of drowning don’t match perceptions
Drowning signs aren’t like the movies

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