Local 6 reveals 3 signs a child could be drowning

Crowds, distractions make it difficult to discern a child playing from a child drowning

By Allison McGinley - News Director

ORLANDO, Fla. - Pool parties, afternoons at the beach, parents want to believe they're watching their kids like a hawk.

But  there are many distractions and pools and oceans get crowded with playing children, and experts say drowning doesn't look like it does on television.

All of this adds up to this fact, according to researchers, half of all drownings and near drownings happen within 25 yards of an adult.

[WEB EXTRA: More drowning prevention tips]

So parents must ask themselves, "Do I really know the signs of a child in trouble?"
Dr. Frank Pia, an aquatics consultant who's  worked with YMCA lifeguards across the country coined the term "Instinctive Drowning Response."

He claims what happens when a person is drowning is actually quite different than most people would expect.

"The average person expects there will be a lot of screaming, calling for help, hands waving, that it's going to be very obvious and very dramatic," says veteran YMCA lifeguard Vicky Golat who agrees with Pia's research.

Using the Instinctive Drowning Response research as a basis, Local 6 created step by step animation to show viewers, step by step, the signs to look for before it's too late.
First, and probably most importantly, there is no yelling.

"The mouth begins to slip below the surface so there isn't really any calling for help," explains Golat.

Next, pay close attention to the head which begins to moves up and down and lean back.

"The individual will sometimes start to push the head back trying to keep the head out of the water," Golat continues.

Thirdly, the arms of a swimmer in trouble move in a very distinct manner. The swimmer pushes down against the water trying to stay afloat.

"Arms can be flailing to try to maintain and keep them up but it's a very exhausting position," said Golat.

In less than a minute, the swimmer could end up floating face down.

"Everyone is in the water having a good time and it becomes easy to miss," explains Golat, who says a child in distress can slip below the surface of the water in as little as 20 seconds.

There's one more critical piece to this prevention puzzle-- a designated "Water Watcher."  The YMCA and other water experts advocate parents taking turns every 20 minutes to be that designated pair of eyes.

Click here to find a "Water Watcher" badge to print out, cut out and place on a string. Make sure someone is wearing it at your next swim party.

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