Carolina Pool Safety: Signs of Drowning May Not Be What You Think

Whether out on the lake, in the ocean, or at a pool, swimmers and observers should be aware of the signs of drowning. Taking immediate action can make the difference between permanent injury, or life and death. A recent article published by Slate highlights the reality that it is often difficult to identify a drowning victim. While some may assume that drowning victims will be screaming or thrashing, this is not often the case.

According to experts, drowning is not usually identifiable by thrashing in the water, violet yelling or a call for help. Drowning can be “deceptively quiet” according to a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer who has often seen victims of drowning overlooked, even by close bystanders. Our Charlotte swimming accident attorneys want to keep our clients and the community safe by promoting swimming safety and to provide information on how to spot a drowning victim.


When watching movies, drowning victims wave, yell and call for help. In fact, drowning victims may not splash or show any sign of struggle. Medical experts in the field have reported that The Instinctive Drowning Response, is what victims actually do to avoid suffocating underwater. Essentially, a drowning victim may go into shock and the reaction is not very dramatic to bystanders.

Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death to children under the age of 5. Surprisingly, nearly half of deaths will be within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. Parents may even be watching their children without knowing that they are drowning.

In reality, victims are unable to call out for help. A respiratory system, designed for breathing, makes speech secondary. Victims may become paralyzed as the body focuses exclusively on taking in air. A drowning victim’s mouth may sink under water then reappear. Mouths of victims are usually not above the water long enough to inhale and call for help so they breath in quickly before their mouth sinks below the surface.

The same way that a victim is unable to call for help, a victim cannot wave. Instinctively, victims will extend their arms and press down on the surface of the water to leverage for air. In this position, victims cannot control arm movements. A victim will usually remain upright in the water with no evidence of kicking. The terrifying thing about drowning, is that the physiological response to drowning makes victims unable to call out for help; and, a victim can usually only struggle between 20 and 60 seconds before they are fully submerged.

If you and your family will be out swimming this summer, remember to keep small children away from the water when unattended. You should also remain aware of the signs of drowning including a head low in the water, tilted back, glassy or empty eyes, closed eyes, hair over forehead or eyes, the inability to use legs, or gasping. By identifying the signs of a drowning victim, you can also take appropriate action when a victim needs help.

If you have lost a loved one to a swimming pool accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for advice about your rights. Call for a free consultation at 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:

Swimming Pool Accidents in Greenville and Elsewhere Likely during Summer, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 7, 2012

Pool Drain Cover Recall Leaves Greensboro Swimmers at High Risk of Entrapment or Drowning in Pool Accidents, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 5, 2011

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