Drowning occurs when normal air exchange in the lungs is prevented when a person's nose and mouth is under the surface of a liquid or when a person's face comes in contact liquid.
Drowning is caused by breathing problems due to 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.
Risk factors that increase your chances of drowning include:
Symptoms of drowning may include:
In some people, breathing problems may not happen until several hours after a drowning accident.
Your doctor will diagnose a drowning injury based on the events and the person's symptoms. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following:
Your doctor may need pictures of your body structures. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need to test your bodily fluids. This can be done with:
Treatment will depend on how bad the drowning episode damaged the body. Treatment options include:
CPR is done to provide oxygen rich air to the vital organs of the body. This may involve giving rescue breaths or doing chest compressions. In all unconscious people and those who have been diving, the head and neck should be supported in case of injuries to the spine.
This is done if the body has become cold due to being in cold water. This may be done slowly to avoid further injury to the body.
A narrow tube is placed into the large airways of the lungs to allow mechanical ventilation.
This is a narrow, flexible, plastic tube that will likely be placed through the nose into the stomach. People with drowning injuries may have swallowed a lot of water.
To help reduce chances that that you or someone you know will drown, take the following steps:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross
Children’s Safety Association of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2013