Swimming Safety and Drowning Risks

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Before letting anyone in a pool it’s important to be aware of the skill level your friends or family possess when swimming.

“If they’re crawling along the edge that’s a sign that they’re a weak swimmer, if they are doing other things like bobbing up and down a lot that means they’re probably trying to keep their mouth out of the water, so that’s something to watch out for,” said Haley Oosterhof, Children’s Aquatic Coordinator for Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.

Per Illinois state law no child can swim alone if they’re under 16 to help avoid any danger. And one of the biggest risks is drowning – defined as “a process resulting in primary respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in a liquid medium.”

Warning signs from the swimmer can help detect what could lead to fatal drowning.

“A distressed swimmer, they may be able to call for help, they may be making a little bit of progress, but not too much towards an edge or more shallow portion of a pool. So they’ll be doing your typical flailing, but they become an active drowner when they stop using forward motion so they’ll be doing the typical climbing the latter pose, so their head is tilted back, their arms are scooping but they aren’t going anywhere. And then a passive drowning victim, that’s when they’ve gone through this active phase possibly, they’re already face down or face up in the water and they’re not making any progress, they’re pretty much just floating or sinking,” explained Oosterhof.

Typically in fatal drowning situations the person needs to be saved within 90 seconds to avoid any cardiac emergencies or death.

But recent news stories have also warned of the risk of dry drowning or secondary drowning. Experts note these are not medically accepted terms – rather they are instances of what can happen if you have technically “drowned,” but are able to safely exit the water.

“You go under the water, you have laryngeal spasm, you have a clamping down of your vocal cords, and nothing is going into your lungs. But, you may have injury to the lungs because of lack of oxygen and a little water. And after they’re rescued they might have mild symptoms initially but they can progress,” said Dr. Hyung Kim, a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at Edward Hospital.

Those symptoms could begin as coughing, wheezing and neurological distress, and could lead to more problems hours later such as cardiopulmonary arrest. However, if no respiratory symptoms occur after the episode of drowning no medical risks remain.

To avoid any of these dangers, our experts recommend ensuring all swimmers are taught where exits of the water are, where the shallow and deep ends occur in a pool and how to get out of the water at any point.

Dry drowning occurs only in about one to two percent of drowning incidents.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.