"Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning"

Everyone – whether you have a kid or not – needs to read this:

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. 

I come from Phoenix, where the news keeps a daily count of the children who’ve drowned, and I still didn’t know this stuff.  Read this article.  It will save lives.

There’s some literature after the jump for ye, if you want to learn more about drowning behavior and the Instinctive Drowning Response.

The following is from Pia Enterprises, and can be found in their document Reflections on Lifeguard Surveillance Programs:

Drowning Behavior

As mentioned earlier an active drowning person struggles on the surface of the water in a highly predictable, patterned, and to the trained eye, recognizable way. The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person’s attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The key concept in understanding a drowning person’s behavior is to keep in mind that suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements.

Research has shown that this response is present wherever active drownings occur ( pools, lakes, beaches, rivers, and waterparks). The reader must keep in mind that the drowning process starts at the point when person are no longer able to keep their mouths above the surface of the water. The aspiration of water which leads to a wet or dry drowning occurs at a later point in the drowning process. It is therefore misleading to tell lifeguards that distress covers all behavior up to the aspiration of water and drowning includes all subsequent behavior.

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response (IDR)

The following information describes the movements of the Instinctive Drowning Response, explains why certain behaviors are or are not occurring, and offers insights into what physiological processes are prompting drowning persons’ movements. The IDR is a group of signs and symptoms which collectively indicate an active drowning is occurring and differentiate it from the characteristics of distress.

The first characteristic of Instinctive Drowning Response is that persons, except in very rare circumstances, are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing; speech is the secondary or overlaid function. This means the primary function breathing must be satisfied first, before the secondary function speech can occur. The second reason drowning persons cannot call out for help is their mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning persons are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.

When the drowning persons’ mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water. While their mouths are below the surface of the water drowning persons keeps them tightly closed to avoid swallowing water. The second characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons cannot wave for help. Immediately after drowning persons begins gasping for air, they are instinctively forced to extend their arms laterally and begin to press down on the surface of the water with their arms and hands.

This response, over which drowning persons have no voluntary control, renders them unable to wave for help. The arm movements of drowning person’s are intended to keep their heads above water so they can continue to breathe. By pressing down on the surface of the water, they lift their mouths out of the water to breathe. The third characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning persons who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and performvoluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

These actions require a swimming or floating skill, which by using the definition of the term drowning, drowning persons do not have. When a drowning person grabs a rescuer, it is because the rescuer did not give the drowning person enough support to stop the Instinctive Drowning Response. Rather, the rescuer only provided enough support to use either the rescuer or the rescue device as a base of support to grab the lifeguard. In such cases, lifeguards did not give drowning persons enough support to convince them they were no longer suffocating.

The fourth characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons’ bodies are perpendicular in the water, and they are not able to move in a horizontal or diagonal direction. Also, there is no evidence of a supporting kick. The fifth characteristic of the Instinctive Drowning Response is that drowning persons struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds. This data was obtained and validated over a 21 year period at Orchard Beach, Bronx , New York where approximately 40,000 rescues, an average of 2,000 per summer occurred.

Observations at Orchard Beach also revealed that drowning persons were often surrounded by patrons who did not realize that a drowning was occurring next to them. It is therefore imperative that new lifeguards be trained to rely on the signs of drowning to begin their rescue procedure and not wait for patrons or more experienced to tell them that a person is drowning. Because manipulation of variables in my observational drowning studies at Orchard Beach were neither ethically nor morally possible, the only way to obtain this data was direct observation of drowning persons during rescues.

This methodology conformed to the qualitative research methods noted by Patton and others. This behavior of drowning persons, originally studied at Orchard Beach in the 1950’s and l960’s, and then written about in the 1970’s has been shown to exist in other areas. The confirmation for this conclusion consists of letters and telephone calls from lifeguards, parents, camp counselors, and park employees who noted that drowning person recognition concepts contained in On Drowning, Drowning: Facts & Myths, and The Reasons People Drown enabled them to identify a drowning person that was surrounded by bathers who did not recognize the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Tip o’ the shot glass to Highly Allochthonous.

Let’s Talk About Boobs

Specifically, the boobs who are throwing a hysterical fit over the new breast cancer screening recommendations:

On Wednesday, a group of women GOP lawmakers held a press conference to denounce a new recommendation by the federal Preventive Services Task Force that women receive mammograms less frequently. “This is how rationing begins,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “This is the little toe in the edge of the water.”
[snip]
As the Washington Independent’s Mike Lillis notes, the concern of the congresswomen about rationed mammograms is especially ironic considering that they oppose legislation that “would require insurance companies that cover diagnostic mammograms also to cover routine, annual breast cancer screenings for all women 40 and older.”

Lessee.  Hypocrisy, check.  Ridiculous fearmongering, check.  Failure to comprehend simple words like “recommendation,” check.  Pure Con dumbfuckery.

But if you’re tempted to fall for a Con, or if you’re just confused over what’s best for your health, or if you want to see a breast cancer researcher take down the bullshit in stunning detail, you can head on over to Orac’s Repectful Insolence blog and read the following:

“Obama’s fixin’ death panels for your mama,” the misogyny gambit, and other idiotic responses to the updated USPSTF mammography recommendations

“Obama’s fixin’ death panels for your mama”: The USPSTF recommendations for mammography used as a political weapon

A two-part takedown that is truly Oracian in scope and insolence.  And if you still want more, there’s always really rethinking breast cancer screening.

Funny how Con talking points and fearmongering just don’t have the same impact when you’re armed with the facts, innit?

Public Service Announcement

Steve Benen highlights a sobering fact:

Remember to wash those hands: “Influenza is circulating unusually early this year with cases in all 50 states — nearly all the swine flu variety, government health officials said Friday.”

My coworkers and I got into a discussion about this a few days ago, after we learned that swine flu had struck the PAX convention – which two of our coworkers had just come back from. Another of our coworkers solemnly informed us that alcohol-based hand sanitizers aren’t effective against viruses, and when I challenged him, stated he’d learned that working in a lab.

His lab apparently didn’t know jack-diddly. I did some research, and what did I find but both the CDC and the WHO recommending alcohol-based sanitizers specifically for H1N1:

CDC guidelines: Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners* are also effective.

(Lest ye think that little * means “disclaimer,” here’s the relevant info from the link:

What if soap and water are not available and alcohol-based products are not allowed in my facility?

Though the scientific evidence is not as extensive as that on hand washing and alcohol-based sanitizers, other hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol may be useful for killing flu germs on hands.)

WHO guidelines: clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis (especially if touching the mouth and nose, or surfaces that are potentially contaminated)

And, just for good measure, PalMD’s guidelines: Frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water isn’t available is a good idea, especially if you have to use your hands on frequently-touched objects such as doorknobs or handrails on the subway.

Three different science-based medicine sources, same answer at all. I’m convinced.

So load up with hand sanitizer for those times when you absolutely can’t avoid touching icky public door handles and such, and use it religiously. I want all my readers happy and healthy.