The big problem when a person is drowning is that nothing is what it seems and that is why many people don’t even realize that a fellow human being is drowning at that moment.
We have certain depictions in our minds from movies of what it’s like to drown, but these are far from reality, the researchers argue.
A drowning person has only 20 to 60 seconds to grab a lifebelt or answer a phone call. However, if he is not helped quickly, his condition will deteriorate immediately.
“Most people imagine a drowning person waving their arms in desperation and constantly calling for help, but that’s not the case at all,” says Alan Steinman, an expert on drowning and marine survival issues and former director of health and safety for the region US Coast Guard.
The cry for help may indeed be there, but when someone is struggling not to sink, what they seek first and desperately is air.
“Typically, a drowning person is silent and just struggling to keep their nose and mouth above the water. His arms are usually outstretched trying to get out of the water and not waving frantically. “It’s a very calm, desperate attitude,” adds Steinman.
This silent, almost calm demeanor is the instinctive response to drowning.
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What does a drowning man look like? It will most likely show the following image:
noiseless. There is no “free” breath to call for help.
It floats up and down. Its mouth sinks below the surface of the water, comes up again to breathe, and then sinks back under the surface of the water.
The hands are stiff. Instead of waving for help, his hands are at his side, pushing the water up and down to keep him alive. Often they can’t get far enough out to grab a life jacket.
It doesn’t kick. The body is straight up and down, almost as if standing in the water, not kicking the legs.
A drowning person can only remain in this position for 20 to 60 seconds before sinking. If he is not helped during this time, he will sink into the water.
People often miss the opportunity to help because they don’t know what’s really going on.
“In many cases, when someone drowns, it appears as if they are playing with water. This is also one of the problems faced by moms and dads and even experienced lifeguards. They see the child or someone generally floating at the surface but because of the wave action they appear to be moving or playing even though they may already be unconscious,” says Gerry Dworkin, professional water sports consultant and lifeguard.
“It is important to know how to swim. But even the best swimmer can drown, and that can happen quickly. Therefore, never let your children out of your sight when they are in the water. You should constantly monitor them. Keep an eye on them,” advises Steinman.