Know What Drowning Really Looks Like To Help Save Lives This Summer

Know What Drowning Really Looks Like To Help Save Lives This Summer

If you take movies as any indication, a drowning person will thrash around wildly in the water, possibly scream out for help or wave someone over. However, as Slate points out, that’s completely wrong, and drowning doesn’t look anything like people expect.

Picture: Tony Bernard/Flickr

Drowning victims can’t call out for help, they can’t control arm movement, and their body remains upright. So what does a drowning victim look like? Slate suggests looking for these signs:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs — vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

Obviously, people yelling for help still need help, but it doesn’t mean they’re drowning. It’s good to have a grasp on what drowning looks like so you can seek out assistance when you need it, and brushing up on your CPR skills is a good idea as well. Head over to Slate for more information.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning [Slate]


  • The position most are in is:
    Face down, back level with water, arms and legs with slight movement but dangling.
    Looks as though they are just looking under the water but they are in in big trouble.

    The photo is of a pool in the USA that is used as a training pool (25m or 25yrd) with disabled seat available.

  • Also don’t wait until someone is drowning to help them, rips and exhaustion can act very quickly.

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