First Aid for someone who is Drowning

May 17, 2022

When providing first aid to someone who is drowning it can be a very dangerous and complicated process if you do not know what you are doing. In this blog, we will cover the step to take to help someone who is drowning as well as how to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Always supervise children when they are near water, they can drown in just a couple of centimetres. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly and causes a frighteningly large number of fatalities every year. Always empty water play as soon as you have finished with it, and never leave the bath unattended. Do not rely solely on buoyancy aids such as float seats, rubber rings or armbands to keep your child safe, always be there with them. The same applies to bath seats.

Most deaths from drowning are caused by secondary drowning or from a muscle spasm in the throat that causes the airway to block. Drowning casualties tend to swallow large amounts of water and are thus highly likely to vomit. When resuscitating, you should be aware of this and that you may need to turn them onto their side periodically to ensure that they do not inhale vomit into their lungs. 


What to do if someone is drowning

If they are unconscious in the water, remove them from it as quickly as you can, but never put yourself in danger. 

Do not enter the water to rescue a drowning casualty unless you have been trained to do so, this can not only put your life in danger but might also seal the fate of the victim. Throw a lifebelt or rope if possible, otherwise, get help fast.

Once back on dry land, turn them on their back, tilt their head and lift the chin to open the airway.

If they’re not breathing start resuscitation. Use a defibrillator immediately if one is available.

If it is warm and they haven’t been in the water very long, you may find they start to regain consciousness quickly. If this happens, swiftly put them into the recovery position to help them drain water and vomit. Keep checking they’re still breathing whilst doing so.

If it is cold, they will not start to regain consciousness until their body is warm enough.

For an adult, start with 30 chest compressions then 2 rescue breaths. For a child or baby, start with 5 rescue breaths then 30 compressions to 2 breaths. Push hard and fast and keep going.

If they start to regain consciousness swiftly put them into the recovery position. Again keep checking that they’re breathing. 

Ensure you have called the emergency services as soon as possible.

IMPORTANT: Anyone who has been in a near-drowning situation should be checked by a doctor as secondary drowning can occur many hours later.


Secondary Drowning

Anyone who has been unconscious in the water should be assessed in the hospital as there is a real risk of suffering secondary drowning.

What is Secondary Drowning? Secondary drowning can occur due to even a small amount of water entering the lungs. The lungs become inflamed and irritated and start drawing fluid from the blood supplying the lungs into the alveoli (the air pockets of the lungs).

This reaction can happen up to 72 hours after the casualty appeared to have recovered. This is often life-threatening and the symptoms are very hard to recognise without professional help. The casualty may deteriorate suddenly and develop severe difficulty breathing. If this happens, phone an ambulance immediately.

We hope that this blog has been helpful to you and if you are interested in reading more of our blogs click here to view more.

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