Drowning. It's what drives most peoples fear of water and rightly so, it is not the most pleasant way to leave the earthly bonds of life that hold us.

We've all seen the Hollywood versions of it, sometimes presented in a comical way: "he's going down for the second time, he's going down for the third time" all the while lots of splashing and waving and yelling are taking place and actors are scurrying across the screen with a lot of noise and activity.

But in real life, we've all seen the headlines that don't match the onscreen versions: he just disappeared and didn't resurface; the child was found motionless at the bottom of the deep end. To a person witnesses almost always note there was no sound.

Drowning indeed is often a silent process.

There is a name for it coined by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., and it's called the Instinctive Drowning Response and it's what people do to avoid suffocation by water whether real or perceived by them. Drowning is the hardly ever talked about number two cause of accidental death in children 15 years and younger just behind car accidents. Except in the rarest of circumstance, a person who is in the process of drowning is physiologically unable to call out for help.

Every year some 750 children drown, about 375 of them within 25 yards of a parent or guardian. Worse the parent will watch it happen not knowing it's happening.

Getty Images - Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death in children in the US.


During drowning a person's body typically remains upright in the water with no evidence of a supporting kick, they instinctively use their arms to push down on the water to get their mouths above the surface for a quick breath, there's no time to yell or wave before sinking down again.

This does not mean a person yelling or thrashing isn't drowning, they're experiencing aquatic distress, but this is not always present. A person in aquatic distress typically is still capable of grabbing a life buoy or grab for some other lifeline.

Never take your eyes off a child in the water, and it's always good for adults to employ the 'buddy system' of pairing off when swimming in open waters such as our lakes and rivers.

Drowning occurs in 30-60 seconds. If someone falls in the water and looks ok, they may not be. Ask them, if they're capable of answering they're probably OK. If they have a blank or glassy stare, hair over their eyes or gasping, they're probably not and you have less than a minute to help them. Always have throw rings, life jackets or long poles at poolside or on the boat when swimming is taking place.

Other silent signs of drowning include appearing to climb an invisible ladder, head low in the water mouth at the water level, head tilted back with the mouth wide open, glassy eyes, eyes closed, not using legs, trying to roll over on the back.

Parents should never let younger children near a swimming pool or in open water alone and when in the water never take your eyes off the child. Personal Flotation Equipment (PFE's) that strap around the body, not the balloon-like arm 'floaties' which can slip right off a child should always be used for younger or inexperienced swimmers.

Swimming lessons are a great idea, even for adults. At the very least have someone show you in the shallow end of a pool how to float on your back, just a few seconds that you may be able to float could save your life.

As summer gets underway in earnest and we all seek water to help keep cool, please remember to pair-up, and if you're on the boat or deck, keep a watchful eye on those in the water.