Drowning is defined as death caused by lack of oxygen within 24 hours of a drowning accident. The term “near-drowning” indicates a situation when someone lives for 24 hours or more after a drowning accident, whether or not the person survives. Drowning accidents are emergencies that require immediate care from a doctor.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors include:
People rescued from drowning may have symptoms ranging from anxiety to near-death. They may be alert, drowsy, or comatose. Some people may not breathe or may gasp for breath, vomit, cough, or wheeze. Breathing problems may not happen until several hours after a drowning accident. Skin may look blue (“cyanotic”) because of too little oxygen in the blood. Cold water exposure may result in low body temperature (hypothermia). Swallowing large quantities of water may result in chemical (electrolyte) disturbances.
Your doctor will diagnose a drowning injury based on the events and the person's symptoms and results of a physical examination. Tests may include the following:
Treatment options include:
In all unconscious people and those who have been diving, the head and neck should be supported in case of injuries to the spine.
This is a narrow, flexible, plastic tube that will likely be placed through the nose into the stomach, as people with drowning injuries may have swallowed a lot of water.
This is done if the body has become cold due to being in cold water. This may be done slowly to avoid further injury to the body.
For this treatment, a narrow tube is placed into the large airways of the lungs to keep them from collapsing and to allow mechanical ventilation if necessary.
To help reduce chances that that you or someone you know will drown, take the following steps:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross
Children’s Safety Association of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2009 by Ronald Nath, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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