HomeDiving InformationDiver Injuries › Drowning

Drowning and Near Drowning

As a matter of fact, thrashing, waving, and yelling for help, are common misconceptions about victims who drown in any given body of water (e.g. the sea, a swimming pool).

This help guide explains some common causes of drowning, how to evaluate and manage near-drowning incidents, and the best treatment for post drowning symptoms.

Near Drowning and Drowning Management

First, it's important to understand the key difference between drowning and near drowning (treatable and nonfatal).

A simple definition of near drowning is 'immersion without mortality' or close to dying due to submersion and respiratory impairment.

Whereas, if someone has drowned, their death will be due to prolonged submersion under water.

Put another way, breathing deficiency causes water to enter the lungs, which prevents oxygen absorption, and leads to asphyxia, suffocation, and cerebral hypoxia.

Pro Tip: Statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show drowning as being third in the leading cause of death by unintentional injury (7%). In fact, there are 236,000 drowning deaths per year worldwide, and almost 4,000 annual deaths by drowning in the United States.

Common Causes of Drowning: Why Do People Drown?

There are simple ways to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim and need rescuing by a certified lifeguard. For example:

Unintentional submersion in water can cause incapacitation without causing death. But, even though most diving incidents are capable of being remedied, the major risk factors that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of drowning, include:

The most popular water-based activities, and have water related injuries commonly associated with them, include:

How to Evaluate a Drowning Person?

Most victims struggle to stay afloat when they are hyperventilating. As a consequence of that, they usually start to sink within a short period of time (i.e. they have negative buoyancy).

Following that, they usually drop below the surface of the water and start holding their breath (involuntarily). After using the oxygen inside the lungs, the urge to breathe gets even stronger by the second.

Here's the thing:

It only takes two or three minutes before the uncontrollable urge to breathe causes victims to start inhaling water (usually a small amount at first).

Hence, even an unconscious victim will swallow water "reflexively", become more negatively buoyant, and die soon after from anoxia (insufficient oxygen).

Symptoms of Drowning

Important: Some victims show signs of recovery after non-deadly drownings. Even so, showing near drowning symptoms means they should be medically evaluated to rule out excess fluid in the lungs, a condition known as delayed pulmonary edema.

Treatment for Near Drowning Victims

The primary objective for layperson rescuers is to restore the victim's breathing and establish a normal heartbeat.

In many cases, this involves cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other methods of basic life support (BLS), such as:

Special Considerations for Post Drowning Incidents

Near drowning victims have been successfully resuscitated after being immersed in water and without breathing for prolonged periods (especially in cold water). If resuscitation is required, continue until relieved by emergency medical services (EMS).

Divers also enjoyed reading about...