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BritSwim #safesummer: What Does Drowning Look Like?

There's an image people carry in their minds of what a drowning looks like. At BritSwim, we teach water safety as well as swimming as part of our standard curriculum, and that involves role-playing drowning scenarios. Without fail, if you ask a student - child or adult - to show you what a drowning person does, they'll start flailing their arms and calling for help.

The reality is that most drownings don't look like drownings. If you're sinking below the water, and struggling for a breath of air, that will be your priority. It's physiological in fact; a drowning person will be instinctively reaching for air and using their limbs for balance, rather than for signalling.

Because the drowning victim is so unlikely to be able to make themselves heard, it is of the utmost importance that you never take your eyes off children in the water. Your vigilance, and knowing what signs to look out for, could save lives.

So what are some of the signs of drowning?

1. Kids in pools make noise - when they stop making that noise, make sure you investigate.
2. The most common drowning position is vertical - when a child is 'standing' in deep water, they may be struggling.
3. If the child's head is tilted backwards and the mouth is open, it's likely because they are trying to get a breath, but finding it hard and need urgent help.
4. Struggling to get to the safety: for example trying to 'climb' the water, roll onto their back, or kicking without moving because of their position.
5. No movement. If a child cannot reach the top of the water, they may not be moving at all underneath it.

Any or all of these could be the signs of a child in severe danger of drowning. Familiarising yourself with them is essential if you ever have children in your care who are in the water.

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