Drowning - Water Safety

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What is drowning and what are the statistics?

According to the World Health Organization, "Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid." The possible outcomes of drowning are classified as death, morbidity (the development of disability or injury), and no morbidity.

This simple definition was agreed upon at the 2002 World Congress of Drowning held in Amsterdam. Prior to that meeting, some definitions and classifications of drowning were not necessarily well defined, and their meanings were subject to a variety of interpretations by different countries and health organizations. While some people still try to sort drowning events into categories (for example wet vs. dry, primary vs. secondary, fatal vs. non-fatal), these terms may or may not adequately describe a patient's situation, the effects of drowning on their body, or the potential outcome.

Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury related deaths. According to the World Health Organization, more than 350,000 people die every year from drowning. This number significantly underestimates the actual number because they do not include those who drown in floods, boating, or water transport accidents. Almost half of all drowning in the world occur in China and India.

The death rate from drowning does not reflect the potential morbidity (disability) due to brain injury for those who survive a drowning episode. Most countries do not keep non-fatal drowning statistics.

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