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Signs that may indicate a person is drowning

According to the Singapore Life Saving Society, research has shown that the following are some of the signs that a person may be drowning:

  • The victim is rarely able to call for help.
  • The person has instinctual arm movements – thrashing the water with both arms partially extended from his sides – which appear to push him upwards in the water.
  • The victim usually manages to turn towards shore. The body stays in an upright position, with no apparent supporting leg kick.
  • The victim is completely limp in the water.

If you have the slightest doubt, ask the person if he or she is ok. If the person is unresponsive, or responds with a blank stare, you need to act fast.

What to do if you witness someone drown

  1. Call for emergency help.
  2. Do NOT attempt to rescue the drowning person by entering the water if you have not been trained as you will be endangering yourself.
  3. Throw a flotation device such as a rescue tube and life jacket, or extend a long pole for the drowning person to hold onto.
  4. Once the drowning person is on dry land, begin resuscitation/CPR if there is no spontaneous breathing or pulse. Keep the head and neck very still in case of spinal, neck, or head injuries.
  5. If the person was swimming in cold water, get blankets or otherwise help bring the person’s body temperature back to normal.

What to do if you are drowning

To survive a drowning incident, the first thing to remember is not to panic! Courtesy of the Singapore Life Saving Society, here are some general tips to heed as soon as you sense you might be in danger.

  1. Keep your head up and try to breathe normally. The body floats better when the lungs are full of air, but you need to avoid hyperventilating.
  2. Toss away anything weighing you down such as shoes or bags.
  3. Attract attention to your difficulties, if there are people around, by shouting, waving and/or splashing water (to the extent you are able to).
  4. If you are tired, try to lie on your back and tilt your head back as well so your eyes look at the sky.
  5. Try to stay as relaxed as possible. Tense muscles use up more oxygen than relaxed muscles, and staying oxygenated is very important.

For more information on the consequences of drowning, see previous page.

Ref: S13