Drowning people don’t call for help!

by Alenka

Pamela Druckerman and her familySomehow the image of a distressed novice swimmer, thrashing in the water and calling for help is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of drowning. Wrong. While such behavior is often shown in the movies and could still occur, this is not drowning yet. Apparently, drowning person is not capable of screaming, thrashing and calling for help in any ways at all! Most of the thousands of kids that drown every year, will quietly do so within a few feet of their unsuspecting parents… terrifying, isn’t it? Well, I found this article a true revelation:

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Also check out the video that one of the professional lifeguards was able to record on the beach, while a another one was saving a drowning boy. It is terrifying to see his parents and friends almost within arms reach and completely unaware about a silent fight for his life…

Instinctive Drowning Response

So, just for the record I wanted to jot down these real signs of drowning:

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

From they article Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.

Kids are are usually very LOUD in the water. If they suddenly go silent, suspect trouble. If you see someone in the water and you are not sure, just ask: “Are you OK?” If they are not, they wouldn’t be able to answer and then it is a matter of seconds for you to be able to help them…

I truly hope none of you will ever have to put this knowledge to the test. Makes me really want to take some lifeguard courses… Do they offer it to the neurotic parents?


  1. Dinara

    Perfectly true! Our swimming coach used to say if you drown raise your hands up and shout “help!” not “aaa”, not “mamaaa” but “help!”. And mind you “help!” in Russian has 4 syllables – not so easy to pronounce with a mouthfull of water while not being able to breathe.

    I remember myself rehearsing it and it seemed so easy till… the moment i was drowning myself. I remember holding my hands up and no words coming out, only me pushing myself out of water to shout a first syllable, but instead making something like “mmmm” and mouth full of water going down again, then up – mouthfull of water and down – with eyes wide open see the coach chatting to someone from staff. Up and down again and again until I opened my eyes, coughing and a scared coach arguing to me I didn’t shout “help!”. Turned out one of my classmates saw me and came to rescue – a 12 year-old girl like myself.

    I now know how to swim, but never go anywhere where my feet don’t reach the ground – I try to work through the fear for many years now but still cowardly admit that once the water level is above the chest level I am scared, and if I keep swimming it takes a lot of self-control and constant auto-selftraning while I am in the water.

    That’s why I signed up my son for underwater swimming from when he was 3 month old and determined to teach him to swim well. :)

  2. Alenka Post author

    What a terrifying experience!!! I am admiring that you could learn to swim afterall, but that must have felt awful -first almost to drown (and to get this fear for the rest of your life), and then to be yelled at for not asking for help, while it was lifeguard’s duty to spot an issue and know the signs… I was very sorry to hear this… but I am glad you are overcoming this terrible experience and still swimming!