First aid for a drowning individual

Drowning can occur in both adults and children when staying close to bodies of water. During drowning, the earlier the individual is removed from the water and administration of first aid, the higher the chance for survival.

Management of drowning

The objective of first aid care for a drowning person is to provide oxygen into the lungs. Depending on the conditions, if there is a possible neck injury, care must be observed to reduce unwanted neck movement.

When evaluating a drowning person, the initial steps include the following:

  • Check if the individual is awake
  • If breathing on his/her own
  • If he/she has a heartbeat
    Drowning

    Rescue breathing can be initiated while in the water but all other measures entails the individual to be safely remove out of the water.

Rescue breathing

Rescue breathing can be initiated while in the water but all other measures entails the individual to be safely remove out of the water. If others are available, ask one to call for help and call for emergency assistance and ask another to get an automated external defibrillator (AED).

In case the individual is breathing, he/she must be placed on the side in the recovery position to prevent possible aspiration in case vomiting occurs.

When to start CPR

If the individual is not breathing and has no pulse, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This is one of the exclusions to the hands-only CPR. In case possible, rescue breathing should be started in a possible drowning individual.

Rewarming

Rewarming should be started by removing wet clothing from the individual and covering his/her body with a warm blanket. This is suitable if the individual still has a heart rate or has been resuscitated and awake.

For a possible drowning victim who was given CPR and the pulse has been restored, but still not awake, make sure that the individual stays cool.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on drowning is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage environmental emergencies including drowning by taking a standard first aid course with Kelowna First Aid.

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