6-2 boy swimmingThis is part two of the “What To Do If Your Child Is Drowning” series. Read about infants/toddlers here.

The purpose of these posts is to find out what you should do if you realize your child is actually drowning or struggling in the water rather than repeat the warnings of how to prevent it. I want to put a couple thoughts and tools in your hands to know WHAT to do if faced with an emergency.

Dr. Linda Quan, an emergency attending physician and drowning expert at Seattle Children’s shares information on what to do if you come upon a school-age child or teenager who is drowning. Preparing for this can help boost awareness and response if ever you support or discover a child in need for rescue.

Keep Your Own Safety In Mind

One of the most important things to be aware of if you see an older child or teen drowning is they are usually in water that is deeper and poses more risk to the rescuer. Always take time to consider personal risks before attempting a rescue. This requisite step plays counter to our instincts to act fast as parents and guardians of children…but I can’t overstate this. The size and strength of the child who is drowning should always be taken into consideration. Children and teens can be large enough to actually drown the rescuer.  Dr. Quan says,

For this age, the “Throw or Reach” rule is the key safest rescue action.

Reach to the child with something they can grab (a stick, paddle or your hands), only if you’re in a safe place and not at risk of being pulled in by the victim. Alternatively, you can throw something that floats (a life jacket, ball or safety ring) toward the child. Do not jump in to the water to rescue a drowning child or teen unless you are trained to do so. Only those who are experienced in water rescue and have some type of floatation with them should go into the water to perform a rescue.

If possible, get your child or teen comfortable in the water. If they have had some experience in water it might be easier for them to overcome panic and either reach for a flotation device or flip over, float and breathe.

If You Think A Child Or Teen Might Be In Trouble:

  1. Tell someone to call for help – a lifeguard or 9-1-1
  2. Stay well clear of the water and any incoming surf unless you are trained, qualified and equipped to make an in-water rescue in these conditions
  3. If the child has been taught to float, yell to them to flip over, float and not fight the current.
  4. Immediately throw the child who is old enough something that floats (e.g., a lifejacket, ball, body board, empty cooler with lid secured)
  5. If you can safely do so, reach to the child with something they can grab (eg., stick, paddle) – STAY out of the water.
  6. Safely remove the child from the water without endangering yourself.
  7. When you get the child to shore, if the child is conscious, provide warming and comfort. If the child continues to have any breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath, fast breathing, coughing, labored breathing or seems too tired, seek medical care immediately. If the child is unconscious, lie the child down on his back, chin up.
    1. If the child is blue or not breathing, give several rescue breaths ( mouth to mouth).
    2. If the child does not take breaths or respond on his own, start CPR (chest compressions with ventilation).
    3. After several rounds of CPR, call 911 if they have not been called yet.