Drowning (cont.)

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How is drowning treated?

Treatment begins at the water's edge. The American Heart Association recommends that if possible, one person is sent to activate Emergency Medical Services and call 911. Another should be sent for an automatic external defibrillator (AED).

If no pulse can be identified and the patient is not breathing, CPR should be started. Drowning is one of the special situations where hands-only CPR is NOT indicated. If there is a potential for a neck injury, special care needs to be taken to prevent further injury to the victim.

If the patient is breathing but not awake, they should be placed on their side in the rescue position to prevent aspiration if vomiting should occur.

  • Further treatment by EMTs, paramedics, and staff at the hospital will depend upon the severity of the symptoms. Those patients who have no symptoms may require nothing more than observation.
  • Those who are in cardiopulmonary arrest will likely undergo CPR with attempts to restore a regular heart rhythm and heart beat.
  • Those patients who have symptoms related to the function of their heart, lung, or brain will need further evaluation and treatment tailored to their specific circumstances and situation.
  • And unfortunately, for those who are found dead with no potential for resuscitation, further treatment or evaluation may not be indicated.

How can drowning be prevented?

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Most drownings are preventable, and simple steps can be taken to help with water safety.

  • Learn how to swim.
  • When in the water, use the buddy system.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs when swimming or boating.
  • Supervise children closely around water and make certain they are the focus of your attention. Even bathtubs and buckets full of water can be dangerous.
  • Swimming pools should have barriers (fences, gates, alarms) to prevent children from entering unattended.
  • Learn CPR.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/19/2013

Patient Comments

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Drowning - Treatment Question: If you know someone who drowned or nearly drowned, what type of emergency treatment was used?
Drowning - Prevention Question: Do you and your family know how to swim? Are you trained in CPR? Please share your experience.
Drowning - What Happens Question: If you had a near drowning experience, please describe what happened and how it felt.
Drowning - Risk Factors Question: Do you know someone who drowned or nearly drowned? What were her/his risk factors (age, medical condition, etc.)?
Drowning - Water Safety Question: Do you have a pool? Please share suggestions for water safety amd how you try to prevent drownings.

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