Skip to Content

PSA of the Day: Drowning and Secondary Drowning Facts

Summer is thisclose once again!  With summer break comes lots of time spent in the water, so this is a perfect time to revisit the facts of drowning and secondary drowning.

Once you’ve read this post (which is an updated post of the one I did last year), come back to the above link on secondary drowning to review.  I’ll also link it at the end of this post for your convenience.

It’s hard to think about anyone you love in danger, but as we ready for the water fun summer brings, it’s just plain smart to think like a Boy Scout and be prepared.

Solving the puzzle of drowning.

Do you think drowning looks like thrashing about in the water, yelling, kicking and dramatic splashing?  You’d be wrong. Doesn’t look a thing like that. And I know, because I once came thisclose to drowning.

When I was about seven, I was in a hotel pool with my older brother who could swim. My swimming skills were just being honed, but as most kids who are just learning, I thought I could swim.

Look at me; I’m swimming!

My brother walked out into the deep end, where he started swimming. I walked out into the deep end, where the bottom of the pool dropped off, and started drowning. Both my parents were within 10 feet of me and I was in plain sight. I started slipping under and couldn’t control my movements. I still remember how scared I was and I could hear my father saying, “Patti, we don’t pretend we’re drowning.” I couldn’t get my head above the water enough to scream for help; I wasn’t playing.

As I was about to black out, I saw my father dive into the pool, wristwatch and all (back then, daddies always took off their watches before getting near water because nothing was waterproof) and pulled me up over the surface of the water. I remember choking, crying, and frantically grabbing for him. Even though I was young, I thought I was going to die in that pool with everyone thinking I was misbehaving. It’s a memory that has vividly stayed with me.

When I was calmer, my parents asked me why I had followed my brother into the deep end. I told them that I didn’t know the pool’s bottom dropped away. I saw my brother heading to one end, and as all pesky little sisters do, I followed. That simple.

That was the summer I learned to swim.

This is what drowning looks like:

This one is more graphic:

Signs someone may be drowning:

* They are unusually quiet, especially children. One needs to breath to make noise.

* Hyperventilating or gasping.

* Can’t wave or use arms in a normal manner. A drowning person instinctively puts their arms out to the side, trying to push themselves above the water line. A child may put their arms in front of them, like trying to climb a ladder.

* Eyes may be closed or glassy and unfocused.

* Head is low in the water, possible tilted back with mouth open, although children’s head may fall forward.

* Vertical in water, not using legs. It may appear the drowning person is dog-paddling, but going nowhere.

* Victim may try to roll over on back.

* Hair may be over forehead.

If you think someone may be in trouble, the easiest and best thing to do is to yell to them, “Are you alright?” If you do not get a response, even if it looks like they aren’t drowning, if you get a blank stare, the stats say you have 30 seconds to get to them.

When a person is drowning they are physiologically unable to help themselves. Their bodies are trying to save them through actions that are of no use (like trying to climb out of the water) and because they need a good breath to speak, they can’t because their bodies are overriding that secondary function in favor of utilizing oxygen to sustain life. They are incapable of calling out for help.

The bottom line: drowning people can’t stop themselves from drowning.

This is why everyone should know the signs.

As our summer gears up for lots of water-themed fun, make sure everyone you know takes care of their required summer reading: know what drowning looks like.

And now that you know what drowning looks like, remember to click into this link on Secondary Drowning.

Be safe out there.


Share It!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

What You Should Know For Melanoma Awareness Month

Friday 19th of May 2017

[…] important information that can save your […]


Tuesday 2nd of August 2016

I knew drowning wasn't like the movies, but I never really knew the signs of drowning. Thank you for this article. It made me really think when I go to the pool.

Patti Tucker

Tuesday 2nd of August 2016

Thank you, Bonita. Drowning really isn't like Hollywood makes it look like.

May Is Melanoma Awareness Month

Friday 6th of May 2016

[…] a melanoma survivor, I feel a strong responsibility to share this post every year. It’s important information that can save your […]


Monday 20th of April 2015

Thanks for this important post! May I post this on my grandparenting facebook page?

Patti Tucker

Monday 20th of April 2015

Absolutely, share the link. The more that know, the better.

lisa serrano

Saturday 18th of April 2015

Your story is so personal, but will help so many. I have shared on my social media pages. Thank you for posting. Lots of love, Lisa / Princess Mousey

Patti Tucker

Saturday 18th of April 2015

Thank you, Lisa! This is such a dear subject to me, obviously based on my own experience. Love that this info is getting spread around. The more that know, the better. Thanks again.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.