Updated: May 21, 2020
Swimming naturally goes along with summertime like sunglasses and flip flops. People of all ages enjoy swimming and it’s an excellent source of exercise and enjoyment.
It’s smart, though, to know some good tips to save a drowning person just in case the unforeseen and unexpected ever happens. No one wants to think about having to stand on the sidelines watching a person struggling in the water and having no clue how to help. Here’s what you need to know.
How Do You Know if Someone is Drowning?
A drowning situation can happen so quickly and so unexpectedly that it’s easy to be caught off-guard. The first step to save someone who is drowning is to determine for sure whether they really are drowning.
If they’ve gone underwater and cannot speak or yell, that can be a sign that they’re in trouble. Here are some other things to look for:
A drowning person may bob quickly up and down and try to reach their arms up out of the water to signal that they’re in trouble. Signs of floundering let you know that you may need to take action.
Head Back and Mouth Open
A drowning person may tilt their head backwards and open their mouth as if they’re gasping or struggling to get a breath.
Dropping Beneath the Surface
A person may drop beneath the surface of the water and you don’t see them come up again in a reasonable period of time (usually within a few seconds).
A person in trouble in the water may feel they no longer have the energy to make kicking motions and they may become still.
It takes quick thought and courage to try to help a drowning person. Many people feel that they have to at least try doing something. It can be difficult, but you need to try to calm yourself enough to be able to think clearly and act quickly.
This is how you’ll be most effective when you think about attempting to save a drowning person.
Another critical thing you have to remember is to avoid doing anything that will put you in danger. You need to stay in a save yourself mode. You’re not going to be any good to the person if you’re being pulled under by a panicked person and become a victim yourself.
Assess the Situation Before You Take Action
The important thing to remember is that no two situations are alike and each situation can require a different set of proactive steps. Factors like whether the person is in a swimming pool, lake or the ocean will have an impact on your actions.
If they’re in a pool, you may have access to helpful personal flotation devices that you can throw to them to let them grab onto and then you can pull them to the side of the pool. Here are some things you’ll want to do no matter where the potential drowning scenario is taking place:
Call for Help
If you can’t call for help, yell for someone else to call 911. The sooner you get knowledgeable help on the way, the better the outcome will be for the drowning person.
Look Around You
Examine the area you’re in to see if there’s any type of flotation devices or anything that is meant to help a drowning person like a shepherd’s hook, torpedo shaped buoy or a ring shaped buoy.
Deciding to Swim to Them
This can be a tough decision to make because you have to put yourself in a save yourself state of mind. You usually want to swim out to someone if you are a very good swimmer or you’re well-trained in underwater rescue.
You also have the option of swimming near the person but not right up to them so you can toss a flotation buoy to them. A drowning person becomes panicked and can strongly pull on you to bring you under the water if you’re not careful.
Grab Under Their Arms
If you get close to the person, try to go from behind and grab underneath their arms and use your legs to kick. This is best done if you’re very confident in your swimming ability and you’re sure that you can get them to shore.
Don’t put yourself in a position to let them grab onto you because they could drag both of you under.
Once you get the person onshore or out of the swimming pool, first aid and rescue breathing should be done as soon as possible. Chances are that by then a trained emergency medical person may be there to help.
If not, look for a pulse, listen for breathing, and you can begin CPR efforts if you’re trained to do that.
Steps in an Easy to Remember Format
You can try to remember steps to help save a drowning person in an easier to remember way. This is called reach, throw, row and go.
Reaching the person and throwing flotation assist devices to them is advised when you have had some training and when the equipment is readily available to you. It’s always important to remember to keep yourself safe in the process, because if you get yourself into trouble, you’re not going to be much help.
Any time a person has drowned or had a near-drowning, it’s critical to get medical help for them ASAP. Even small amounts of water left in the lungs can cause huge problems later if the lungs fill up with fluid. This is known as dry drowning.
The best advice is to closely keep an eye on anyone who coughs while in the water, or if coughing persists and they choke due to water after they’re out of the water.
The best way to approach swimming is to know that it’s fun, great exercise and has cardiovascular benefits, but that there can be dangers associated with it.
Finally, to keep yourself from becoming a drowning victim, the best things you could do is to learn how to swim and wear a PFD when the situation calls for it. Life jacket wear rates have been trending up over the years but there’s still room for improvement.