Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B J Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India
First Created: 07/01/2004  Last Updated: 08/01/2015

Patient Education

What is drowning?

Drowning is a condition is when a person falls into a pool of water and water enters into the lungs leading to death within 24 hours. When a person survives more than 24 hours, it is called near-drowning.

What happens when a person drowns?

When the person submerges in water, the person panics leading to the entry of water in the throat. As water enters the throat, the throat muscles contract. The person continues to struggle and a lot of water continues to enter the stomach. Due to the severe spasm of the muscles, he/she may lose consciousness and lead to oxygen starvation. The water then also enters into the lungs and further oxygen starvation occurs.

Drowning in cold water may also lead to Hypothermia (low body temperature) that may lead to sudden stoppage of the heart and the circulation.

Risk Factors and General Measures

What are the risk factors for drowning?

Toddlers with inadequate supervision may drown in home swimming pools or even topple over in bathtubs and buckets. Drowning may occur in 2-3 in (5-7 cm) of water. Teens may go into unguarded pools, ponds, lakes, and seas and may drown if washed away by undercurrents.

How to help a person who is drowning?

The following measures are useful to help a person who is drowning:

  • Do send for any professional help that is rapidly available in the area, e. g. lifeguards, beach officers, etc.

  • Don't enter the unguarded water yourself unless absolutely necessary.

  • If the rescue of a victim from the water is first necessary, take care that the victim may be struggling and uncooperative leading to hazards. Try and stay on the land. Wade to a safe depth of (i.e. top of thighs) and throw a rescue ring or rope, or try to reach the victim with a stick or similar.

  • When the victim has been rescued, check the ABC (airway, breathing, pulse) of the person. Do not attempt to pump any water from the victim's lungs or stomach. Keep the victim warm, wrap them in warm blankets/clothing.

  • Call for an ambulance.

Drowning Drowning https://www.pediatriconcall.com/show_article/default.aspx?main_cat=pediatric-critical-care&sub_cat=drowning&url=drowning-patient-education 2015-08-01
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