Parents…Do You Know What Drowning Looks Like??

Drowning is silent“Help! Help! I’m drowning! Someone help me!” Arms flailing, screaming, these are your cues when someone is drowning. Right? Wrong.

In the depths of a brutally cold winter, drowning is probably the last thing on your mind. Frostbite, probably. House-bound insanity with kids, yes. Booking a spring break trip someplace warm or fantasizing about some beach/pool time when warmer weather arrives? Absolutely! Since you may not have many opportunities to be at the pool or beach right now, it’s the perfect time to take a few minutes over your coffee to read up on why drowning doesn’t look like drowning so that when you do make that blissful plunge into warm water your entire family is safer.

Drowning is completely silent and unless you are looking for the signs, you wouldn’t recognize that someone was drowning, even your own child, three feet away from you, while you stayed carefully in arm’s reach.

When someone is drowning, the most immediate way of recognizing the problem is that they may look like they are climbing a ladder. Their head is just below the surface, they are vertical in the water, they are probably looking upright and their arms may be moving as if they are climbing a ladder. And it is silent. No yelling. If someone is yelling for help, they may be out of their depth and you should, of course, call a lifeguard for help, but it’s the silent ones who are in the most trouble and need immediate aid.

As a parent, you know that hearing total silence from your child is your first clue that something isn’t right. Either they are up to no good, or something is wrong. The same applies in the water. If you can’t hear them, they are probably in trouble.

If you do see someone in distress but not yet underwater, let a lifeguard know – and remember, always swim near a lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard around, know to Reach, Throw, Row but Don’t Go!

For more information on what drowning really looks like, I highly recommend this article.

Water is the most fun you can have with your child, as long as you know how to be safe around it.

About the Author

Global water safety for children is my passion and I can't wait to get up every day to work at it! I blog about water safety regularly at, or you can follow me on Twitter at RebeccaSaveKids. Rebecca is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


9 Responses to “Parents…Do You Know What Drowning Looks Like??”

  1. I have a pool and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t freak out about one of the kids falling in. I get especially nervous int he ocean, I lost my best friend to a drowning accident. Great post!

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      I can imagine it would scare me too. BTW – you probably already know this, but there’s lots of pool alert systems that let you know if someone or something has fallen into the water. Rebecca (our drowning expert) knows a lot more about these than I do, and can probably get you some names if you’re interested. Just let me know. Ps. Really sorry to hear about your friend – I didn’t know this was how he died.

    • Julie, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. If you start asking nearly everyone knows someone who drowned. It really is a silent epidemic. There are a lot of great systems on the market, but the best starting point is It’s an amazing resource for pool safety.


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  1. […] for help, but it’s the silent ones who are in the most trouble and need immediate aid. (see: Parents…Do You Know What Drowning Looks Like?? ) If someone is pulled from the water in this situation, always get them to the emergency […]

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