How to Prevent Near-Drowning

Drowning is a serious health problem, accounting for the death of 6,000 to 8,000 people every year in the United States. In fact, it ranks third as the most common cause of accidental death in the country. The number is staggering worldwide: an estimated 150,000 people drown each year.

Figures regarding near-drowning is somewhat unreliable, but it has been estimated that there are approximately 600 near-drowning incidents per reported drowning fatality. Around 75% of victims of near-drowning who receive immediate medical treatment survive. Six percent of those who survive will have long-term neurological problems. Thus, first aid and immediate medical attention are of utmost importance to prevent damages brought about by near-drowning.

Near-drowning effects

Near-drowning can damage the person’s brain, heart, lungs, and nervous system due to stopping of or interference with breathing. It can also damage one’s body as a result of altered body temperature. The liquid that enters the lungs washes out surfactant (thin coating that bathes the inside of your lungs), which often results to pulmonary edema. It also creates fluid in the lung tissue, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Wheezing and shortness of breath are some of the signs and symptoms of ARDS.

Many near-drowning victims suffer from ischemia (loss of blood flow to the extremities) and hypoxia (lowered levels of oxygen in the blood), resulting in immediate neurological problems such as critical increases in intracranial pressure and swelling of the brain. Approximately 20% of victims suffer from neurological damage. Heart arrhythmia and hypoxia are the most common circulatory and heart problems observed in survivors of near-drowning.

First Aid

The first thing to consider if you are to rescue a drowning person is your own safety: Do not put yourself in danger. Get into the water only of you are absolutely sure that the rescue is safe. If you have first aid training, rescue the drowning person if it will not harm you. If the victim’s breathing has stopped, you have to start rescue breaths as soon as possible. The breathing process may start while you and the victim are still in the water.

Keep breathing for the victim every now and then while moving him or her to dry land. When you reach the dry land, give CPR if necessary. Be very careful when moving a near-drowning survivor. Always assume that he or she person may have a spine or neck injury. Do not also bend or turn the survivor’s neck.

Finding the pulse of the near-drowning person can be a real challenge because of hypothermia. Thus, you should search for the pulse for at least a minute before you try to restart the victim’s heart through chest compressions. The Heimlich maneuver aimed at draining fluid is of little use. What is of immediate importance is to get the person victim breathing.

How to prevention near-drowning?

Prevention is still the best solution for near-drowning. The majority of near-drowning cases can be easily prevented. For example, effective fencing around your swimming pool would lower the risk of drowning of your kids under the age of four; the number of drowning among children this age is reduced by about 80%.

Risks of drowning can also be lowered by education programs that emphasize the importance of wearing life jackets, adult supervision of children near water, and avoiding alcohol and drugs while boating or swimming. This health problem can also be prevented by observing water safety rules or by taking a water safety course.