What is drowning?
Drowning is death by suffocation from submersion in any liquid. Hypothermia and cardiac arrest can also occur due to immersion in cold water.
How to treat a drowning casualty who is conscious and breathing
- If the casualty has been rescued from water, help them to lie on an insulating surface (a coat or blanket) with their head lower than the rest of their body to help water drain from their mouth.
- Treat the casualty for hypothermia – keep the casualty warm with dry clothes, coats or blankets. If fully conscious, offer a warm drink and/or chocolate.
- Call 999/112 for emergency help if necessary. Make sure the casualty receives medical assistance as they may be prone to ‘secondary drowning’.
- Whilst waiting for emergency help to arrive, keep the casualty comfortable and supported and reassure them that help is on its way.
How to treat a drowning casualty who is unconscious
- Open the airway and check for breathing.
- If they ARE breathing, carefully place the casualty in the safe airway position, ideally on an insulated surface, allowing water to drain from their mouth.
- Call 999/112 for emergency help.
- Carefully treat the casualty for hypothermia – keep the casualty warm with dry clothes, coats or blankets.
If they are not breathing:
- Give 5 initial rescue breaths before you start chest compressions.
- If you are alone, give CPR for 1 minute before calling for emergency help (5 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths, 30 compressions…)
- Call for emergency help.
- Continue CPR.
What is secondary drowning?
Water entering a casualty’s lungs can cause the lungs to be irritated, which can make the air passages swell hours after a casualty has been rescued from water. This is very serious and can result in death. Anyone rescued from a drowning incident should seek urgent medical assistance. Find out more about drowning here:
This isn’t a substitute for first aid training. If you’d like to be able to deal with a variety of first aid issues with confidence, book a first aid course in Newcastle, the North East or wherever you need us! Get in touch for more information.