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Recognizing the Instinctive Drowning Response

Boston families are gearing up for summer fun, including time at the beach, lake or pool. Before you pack the new flip-flops and locate that bottle of 30 SPF lotion, take time to review some important information about recognizing the actual signs that an adult or child is drowning.

Unlike Hollywood depictions of someone in distress splashing and yelling for help, drowning is usually a silent accident. During the instinctive drowning response, a person is too busy trying to breathe to call out for help and cannot make voluntary arm movements to wave for attention or even grab onto a support. This explains why so many children drown within close proximity to an adult.

This is what drowning actually looks like:

  • Head back with mouth right below water level
  • Eyes unfocused or closed
  • Hyperventilation
  • Arms extended in front
  • Legs not kicking

All lifeguards should be trained to recognize the signs of the instinctive drowning response so they can take effective, timely action. Drowning remains the second cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15. Near-drowning can result in brain injury and permanent disability when the brain is deprived of oxygen.

Losing a child in a drowning accident is devastating for any family. If you suspect that negligence played a role in the death of your child, you may have grounds for filing a wrongful death or liability lawsuit.

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