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An emergency situation - what does drowning 'look like?'

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BY NIKKI SHOUTZ

DNR Conservation Officer

Most people do not have any idea what drowning looks like. Half of the people who’ll drown this summer are within reach of someone who could save them.

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Five things to watch for:

1. Head tilted back: The victim tilts his head back in a futile attempt to keep above water. His hair is typically over the forehead or eyes and he may seem like he’s trying to roll over on his back.

2. Mouth at water level: He is trying hard to keep his mouth above water, so he can breathe; but he fails. A drowning victim cannot call for help. He can’t yell if he can’t breathe.

3. Body vertical: If a person were swimming, he would be more horizontal and kicking with his legs. He is in distress if he’s vertical in the water — and over his head.

4. Facing land: The instinctive drowning response causes the victim to make for land. Nearly always, that’s what he does.

5. “Ladder climbing”: Instead of typical swimming-kicking motions, a drowning victim moves his legs as if trying to climb an invisible set of stairs.

Drowning is quiet and undramatic from the surface. It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death for ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents).

Of the approximately 750 children who will drown nationwide, about 375 will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In some cases, the adult will actually watch the child drown, having no idea what is happening.

If children are near the water, you need to be with your children and know what drowning looks like.

(This column is published on behalf of the Whitefish Chain Yacht Club.)

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