Drowning

Drowning occurs when normal air exchange in the lungs is prevented. This can happen when a person's nose and mouth are under the surface of a liquid, or when a person's face comes in contact liquid.

  • Causes

    Drowning is caused by breathing problems because of liquid, such as water. At first, the person will hold his or her breath. Eventually, the person will no longer be able to hold it. The liquid will flow into the lungs. This liquid will not allow the normal gas exchange in the lungs to happen.

  • Definition

    Drowning occurs when normal air exchange in the lungs is prevented. This can happen when a person's nose and mouth are under the surface of a liquid, or when a person's face comes in contact liquid.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will diagnose a drowning injury based on the events and the person's symptoms. A physical exam will be done.

    Your doctor may need pictures of your body structures. This can be done with:

    • X-rays
    • CT scan
      and
      MRI

    Your doctor may need to test your body's oxygen levels. This can be done with:

    • Blood tests
    • Oximetry
    Brain Damage from Lack of Oxygen
    Brain Damage Oxygen
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  • Prevention

    To help reduce chances that that you or someone you know will drown, take the following steps:

    • Never leave children alone with any body of water such as a pool, bathtub, or spa. Drowning can occur within moments.
    • Have your child take swimming lessons. Remember that even a child who knows how to swim is still at risk for drowning and will need constant supervision.
    • A fence or barrier should completely enclose your pool or spa. All gates or doors leading from the house to the pool area should have a self-closing, self-latching gate. It should be above the reach of toddlers and young children. You may want to get a pool alarm or rigid pool cover in addition to the fence and gates.
    • If you use a lightweight, floating pool cover, be extra alert to the potential for drowning accidents. These covers do not keep people from falling in. No one should ever crawl or walk on them.
    • Remove any obstacles to allow a full view of the pool or spa from the house.
    • Body parts and hair can be trapped in pool drains. Be sure that the pool has drain covers or a filter system to release the suction.
    • Ensure careful supervision of all guests if alcoholic beverages are served at a spa or pool.
    • When swimming in open water, choose an area where there is a lifeguard.
    • Always wear life vests when boating.
    • There is a risk of drowning during the wintertime. Warn children and others about the danger of walking or skating on thin ice.
    • Do not allow anyone of any age to swim alone. A supervising adult should be within arm's length of infants and toddlers who are swimming. The adult should know how to swim, be able to rescue someone, and do CPR.

  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors that increase your chances of drowning include:

    • Use of drugs or alcohol prior to incident
    • Not knowing how to swim

    • Horseplay or unsafe diving resulting in
      trauma
    • Risk-taking behavior around pools or other bodies of water

    • Being in a body of water and having a prior medical condition, such as seizures, fainting, cardiac conditions, or hypoglycemia.

    Children are most often the victims of drowning. The following factors increase a child’s risk of drowning:

    • Not knowing how to swim
    • Having an unfenced pool or spa in the home
    • Among children less than one year old, the most common risk factor for drowning is being left in a bathtub unattended, even for a few minutes

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of drowning may include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Being unconscious
    • Inability to breathe
    • Gasping for breath
    • Vomiting
    • Coughing or wheezing
    • Blue skin due to lack of oxygen

    In some people,
    breathing problems may not happen until several hours after a drowning accident.

  • Treatment

    Treatment will depend on how bad the drowning episode damaged the body. Treatment options include: