Stay safe this summer: know the REAL signs of drowning!

by K.B. Owen

image via

Happy mid- summer, everyone!

With everyone hitting the pool/beach, it seemed a good time to talk about the real signs of drowning (they may not be what you think). I was really impressed by the video below that shows what it looks like.  I know I learned a lot, and I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

We human beings have a number of hard-wired, uncontrollable, instinctive responses (we had even more of them as infants), designed by nature to protect us:  we blink when an object comes at us suddenly; we experience a fit of coughing when something gets lodged in our throat; we feel our heart racing when we’re afraid, as our bodies ready for a possible “fight or flight” action.

Turns out, there’s an instinctive response when one is drowning, too.  It’s a completely involuntary set of movements, and it looks nothing like the portrayals in film and t.v.  People have been known to drown – especially children – with others standing right next to them.  But no one recognized what they saw as drowning, because they didn’t know the real signs of drowning.

Differences between Aquatic Distress and Drowning:

Behaviors: “Aquatic Distress” (this can lead to drowning) Behaviors: Drowning (the person has 20-60 seconds before loss of consciousness)
Yelling for help Can’t speak; just trying to breathe (If you aren’t sure, try asking “Are you all right?” If they can’t answer, act quickly)
Waving arms/thrashing in the water.  Can respond to a rescuer and grab a rope or buoy. Arms out laterally, pressing down on the water’s surface (instinctive attempt to gain leverage).  Cannot control arm movements or reach for a flotation device.
The head is out of the water Mouth is moving just above and below the water surface, barely clearing the water to catch a breath.

Here’s a dramatic video of a drowning boy.  Don’t worry; he was rescued in time and is fine. 🙂  Note the people standing right near him, with no clue as to what was happening.  In their defense, you can also see how quiet and barely noticeable it is.  Thank goodness for trained lifeguards!  The video includes a terrific expert-narrated explanation of what is going on.

The instinctive drowning response.

What do you do to stay safe?  I’d love to hear from you.

Yep, these guys are mine, though they are much older now. 😉

Here’s to a safe rest of the summer for you and your family!

Until next time,


K.B. Owen signing books at Prospero’s Books (Manassas, VA)

Posted by K.B. Owen. K.B. taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells…and from that series came lady Pinkerton Penelope Hamilton.

There are now seven books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, and three novellas in the Penelope Hamilton series.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Shannon Esposito
    July 9, 2019 at 10:14 am

    This is such an important summer safety message! I’m shocked by the fact that lifeguards see thousands of near-drownings a year. I thought it was rare.

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      July 9, 2019 at 1:31 pm

      It was pretty shocking to me, too, Shannon! It’s important to be aware. I know I learned something when I first saw the video.

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    July 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Oh, by the way, I forgot to add at the end of my post that the first book in the Concordia Wells Mystery series, DANGEROUS AND UNSEEMLY, is still FREE until the end of this month!

    Details and links on my homepage:

  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    July 9, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    I definitely thought drowning people would be yelling and waving their arms. Scary to think how easy it is for a drowning person to not be noticed by those around them.

    • Reply
      K.B. Owen
      July 9, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      I know…can you imagine not knowing someone needed help? How awful. But I’m glad word is getting out with news segments and videos.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.