Signs of drowning: Doggy Paddle or Drowning?

30 May 2014

As many of us will be enjoying stay cations this summer and heading to the beach to enjoy the heatwaves, its important we do so safely. Learn the signs of drowning, and what to do if you spot it.

Quick Dip or A&E  Trip?

The news has been full of reports people having got into difficulties in rough water, rip tides or by being caught on rocks. According to the Royal Life Saving Society more than 700 people per year drown in UK and Ireland. Countless more are thought to have non fatal but life changing injuries. Waves can easily knock people off their feet including children and drag them further to sea. Even though it may be gloriously warm outside, the cold water can cause you to panic as you enter the water. This shock can literally take your breath away.

Please do have fun this Summer in the water but also be safe. Real life drowning looks nothing like it does on the television (arms waving around, shouting for help) In knowing the signs and symptoms of drowning you may be able to recognise a person in distress and get to them.

Children and Young People

Babies and young children can drown in as little as 5cm of water, they have no concept of how dangerous water can be. The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) state babies and small children mostly drown in the bath or garden. Whilst children under 8 may know about water safety, they often get caught in the moment and forget instructions.

Older children should be taught the beach warning flags and to swim between the red and yellow ones. It is easy for inflatables to be swept out to sea in the wind. Keep an eye on the windsock to know if its safe to use the inflatables during your trip.

It is also important to ensure adults do not enter the water if they have consumed large amounts of alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms of Drowning

In reality, when people are drowning, especially children this is what you are far more likely to see:

What to do

Never put yourself at danger, only rescue someone if it is safe to do so. If you become injured in the rescue no one will know either of you are there. Ensure 999 or 112 is called, if in doubt its safe.

In the event someone is pulled from water and they are unconsciousness but breathing, place them in the recovery position. This will allow the water to drain out and keep their airway open. There is a real risk of hypothermia (very low body temperature) so cover them to keep them warm. If you haven’t already called for assistance, you should do so now by calling 999 or 112.

If the person is unconsciousness but not breathing you will need to begin CPR. You should give 5 initial rescue breaths prior to starting chest compression’s. If you are alone, continue CPR for one minute then call for an ambulance and continue CPR until they arrive. If there is someone else with you, they can go for help while you begin CPR.

*During this global Corona virus pandemic the resuscitation council  are suggesting that chest only CPR may be suitable for adults due to the risks of the virus. If carrying out chest compression’s, cover their mouth and nose with fabric (like a towel.) This is to try and trap any of the droplets caused by compression that may put you at risk. If the casualty is a child it is agreed there are risks of catching the virus, however it is considered small risk compared to the child not recovering if no breaths are given. For this reason the advice is to carry out CPR in the usual manner.


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