Real drowning doesn't look like the movies

Tampa, Florida -- This summer, you may watch a child drown and not even know it's happening.

If you're going to spend any time around the water, this is an article you need to read.

Florida's top child safety leaders gathered at the edge of the pool at South Tampa's YMCA to kick off a message you'll hopefully hear a lot this summer: "Eyes on the Kids."

The campaign and its website are designed to remind parents that drownings can happen in seconds. And while swimming lessons and pool fences are vital, nothing beats adult supervision.

But even if you have your eyes on the kids, you may be watching for all the wrong things.

More than 700 children will drown in America this year, and many will do it with an adult right there -- close by -- or even watching. How can that happen? It's because the "drowning" you've seen on the big screen is a movie myth. People sometimes yell, wave, and splash when they're struggling in the water.

But when someone's truly about to drown, it looks completely different. It's frightening in its own way... so quiet and so quick.

See Also: St. Pete Beach swimmer saved from drowning

When a person's really drowning, instinct makes their arms stay down; they may look like they're climbing a ladder or pawing at the water. They stay upright, with their head back. Their mouth moves above and below the water's surface as they slip away.

You typically have 20 to 60 seconds to help them. That's all.

Watch for a glassy look in their eyes, or hair over their face. Ask if they're okay. If they can't answer, they need your help.

Here's video of an actual person showing those drowning signs right before he's rescued. You can learn more about what drowning really looks like from this article on the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Florida is three times worse than the rest of the country for the number of little children we lose to drowning. In the past five years, the Florida Department of Children and Families says 64 children have drowned in the Tampa Bay area alone.

This summer, remember, put away the phone and don't duck inside for a drink -- keep your eyes on the kids.


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