Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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July 10, 2013

Drowning doesn’t look like drowning

‘Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning’ Mario Vittone

The following is information from a Slate.com article by Mario Vittone, which the Index ran June 5. In light of two drowning deaths over the weekend at PK Lake, the following is offered as an abbreviated version of this detailed account of what drowning does and doesn’t look like again.

Drowning doesn’t look like drowning, according to former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone. Unlike what viewers see in television shows and movies, he said drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event.

"The waving, splashing and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life,” he explained.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D. – is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect, explains Vittone, noting, “There is very little splashing, no waving and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.”

Vittone shares some child drowning statistics, including this is the number two cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents). Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 10 percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening.



In an article in the Coast Guard’s “On Scene” magazine, Pia described the Instinctive Drowning Response, highlighting:

• Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.

• Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

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