Before you pack up and head to the beach or pool this summer you may want to brush up on a few summer safety tips. Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death for children under the age of 15. It is second only to car accidents. Studies have estimated that of the 750 children who drown each year, approximately 375 will drown within 25 yards of a parent or caretaker. Part of the problem is that the adult may have been distracted by other children or social activities, but the main cause is that most people only learn what drowning looks like from TV. Through movies and shows we learn to associate drowning with screaming, arms flailing, splashing, and kicking. In reality these actions only occur during aquatic distress, which often does not precede drowning.
When actual drowning occurs, the body enters a mode known as Instinctive Drowning Response, a term coined by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D. When the body enters this mode a person will be unable to call for help. The body is programmed to prioritize breathing over speaking. When a person cannot breath they are not able to speak. During this emergency mode, the instinct forces a person to extend their arms out to the side in an attempt to press out of the water. This instinct overrides the ability to lift the arms out of the water and wave for help. A person cannot override this instinct even when waving to someone a few feet away could save them. A person remains at the surface of the water in this mode for only 20 to 60 seconds before sinking below the surface. So what should you look out for to prevent this silent drowning? Floating at the surface with arms extended, mouth floating near the surface without enough time above water to breath, lateral arm movement without the ability to swim or roll over, and possible leg stillness. When in doubt, call out to the person. If there is no answer, then you must act quickly to get to them before they fully submerge.
There is one more tip that we would like to make you aware of for the summer. Area hospitals are raising awareness about a type of drowning that occurs hours after leaving the pool or beach. It is known as secondary drowning or near drowning. This occurs when a child takes in water while swimming and sputters or coughs afterwards. After the coughing fades, the child may appear perfectly fine, but respiratory distress can occur 6 to 8 hours after this type of event. The water in the lungs causes inflammation and swelling resulting in pulmonary edema. If you see the following symptoms in your child you should head to the hospital immediately: hyperventilation, increased breathing rate, nostrils flaring, retraction of the ribs causing a pronounced V between the ribs or above the ribs at the neck, and paradoxal breathing, which cases a see-saw effect forcing the chest and stomach to alternately pop out with each breath.
CSCS has represented a number of drowning victims over the past four decades. Often these cases are wrongful death cases, where there is an allegation that the drowning could have been prevented had a lifeguard or other supervising adult been more responsible in their duties to watch the swimmers. If the victim survives the result can be server brain injury, which can result in permanent disability. If you believe that a family member or friend has suffered a drowning as a result of the negligence of another, please call the personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a free consultation.