Drowning is the process of experiencing breathing impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. It is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, second most common cause of death in children in the US and when it does not result in death, may still result in significant/permanent impairment.
Age is considered one of the most significant factors and In general, children under 5 years of age have the highest drowning mortality rates worldwide.
Alcohol use, on or around bodies of water can also play a significant role through physical impairment.
Easy access to water, lack of supervision and underlying medical conditions that can cause physical impairment such as epilepsy can increase the risk of drowning.
Recognizing a Person at Risk
Drowning is most dangerous because it can be a silent killer. A person at risk for drowning may not present as panicked and shouting for help. Other less obvious signs a person may be in trouble include:
- Mouth beneath the surface, unable to speak
- The child is upright in the water, but not kicking to help resurface
- Bobbing to the surface in short intervals, gasping
- Still/motionless in the water
- Floating on the water’s surface
- Pale/blue discoloration
There will never be any preventative measure as powerful as keen, sober, undistracted observation.
That being said there are steps you as a caregiver can take to decrease risk of drowning and those include:
- Fencing off pool/bodies of water
- Covering wells and open cisterns
- Emptying buckets/kiddy pools and storing them upside down
- Emptying baths immediately
- Removing standing water through appropriate drainage
- Swimmers education
- Learning CPR
- Do not use floatation devices as a substitute for supervision
- Securing easy access sources of water (IE: toilet)
What to do if you suspect your child suffered a near drowning:
All parents/caregivers suspecting drowning should activate an emergency response and seek out medical attention AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
While the actual time varies from person to person it is believed brain tissue death begins after 3-6 minutes of oxygen deprivation.
Immediate initiation of CPR can preserve brain function and often make the difference between life and death.