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What Parents Need To Know About Drowning

As summer rages on, a lot of us are hitting the beach or pool to cool off. Swimming is a lot of fun, but there's still room for bad things to happen. Drowning is, unfortunately, one of those things. I'm not trying to scare you, but I we all need to know what signs to look for and, if someone is drowning, how to help.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that roughly ten people die each day from drowning, two of whom are children. Believe it or not, a body of water doesn't have to be very deep for someone to drown. In fact, all that is necessary is for the water to cover the nose and mouth to prevent the person from breathing. This is why there are warnings on the sides of pretty much any container that can be used as a bucket-don't leave it unattended around children because if they trip and fall head-first into fluid, they could drown. Since the human body can only go without air for about four minutes, this is a chance we can't take.

All the thrashing, screaming and kicking we see on TV when someone drowns is actually pretty rare. Don't get me wrong; those people are having problems and definitely need help. However, here are a few signs of drowning most of us don't think of.
-Eyes are closed or appear 'glazed over' and empty
-Gasping or hyperventilating
-Trying unsuccessfully to roll over or swim in a particular direction
-Head tilted back, mouth open
-Head low in water, mouth at surface level
-Treading in such a way that looks like they're climbing a ladder that isn't there
-Vertical, not using their legs at all
-Hair is over the forehead and eyes when it normally isn't (apparently some find it fashionable)

Basic ways to save a drowning victim
-If you see someone who seems to be drowning, call for help. Leave the heroic stuff to the lifeguards.
-In the meantime, give them something to hold onto while you pull them to your side. Most public pools have items called reaching assists or shepherd's hooks that are made specifically for reaching out to someone who is having trouble in the water. If you don't have these handy, locate anything you can find that the person can grab onto and be pulled over to the side-your wrist, a pool-cleaning net, a pole, a raft attached to a rope..anything they can latch onto while you pull them over. You'll have to do this quickly, of course, so perhaps someone else can help you locate such an item if it's not on hand.

Watch your children like a hawk, even if they are decent swimmers. Don't count being able to hear them; remember, someone who is drowning can't call for help. Make sure they're in your line of sight (or that of another adult) at all times. If anything, make note of what you don't hear; if your children get quiet, go to them to find out why. Splashing and playing kids make sounds, so the absence of sound can mean there's a problem.

Summer can be a wonderful time to make memories that can last a lifetime. Let's do what we can to make sure all of those memories are good ones. For more information, visit

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