Performing CPR on a drowning infant

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) involves chest compression and rescue breathing. It is commonly performed on individuals who are not breathing or has no heartbeat. CPR is required in cases of cardiac arrest, accidents such as drowning and respiratory failure. It helps keep the blood circulating to the vital organs. Additionally, it also helps deliver oxygen to the lungs. When performing CPR on children and infants, the guidelines are different than in adults.

Always bear in mind that CPR has the main objective of keeping the oxygen and blood flowing through the body, not to remove the water from the lungs of a drowning infant. The procedure for performing CPR is the same whether the infant faces a different emergency situation or has drowned.

Steps when performing CPR on a drowning infant

CPR on drowning infant

Position the infant on the ground or any firm surface.

  • Position the infant on the ground or any firm surface. Try to stimulate the infant to determine if he/she is responsive. You can flick the bottom of the infant’s feet and speak in a loud voice to determine if he/she is responsive such as crying. Do not shake the baby since it can damage the neck and brain.
  • Open the airway. The tongue can fall towards the back of his/her mouth and block the airway. Tilt gently the head slightly back by pushing down on the forehead while lifting up the chin. Do not overextend the neck since this can cause injuries.
  • Assess the chest of the infant and place a hand over it to check if it is moving up and down which indicates breathing. At the same time, position your ear close to the mouth of the infant and listen for breathing. In case the infant is not breathing, you have to perform rescue breathing.
  • Position your mouth over the mouth and nose of the infant and blow twice to deliver two rescue breaths. Look at the chest as you deliver a blow to make sure that the chest is moving. If the chest did not rise, the airway of the baby is still blocked. You have to reposition the head to clear the airway.
  • Check for a pulse. In case there is no palpable heartbeat, perform chest compressions. Position two fingers in the middle of the chest between the nipples. Press down at the depth of 1/3 to ½ of the chest. Perform the compressions quickly at the ratio of 30 compressions to 2 rescue breaths.

Always bear in mind that a drowning infant has usually swallowed a lot of water. While performing CPR, the infant might vomit the water out. You have to turn the baby on his/her side and clear the airway by using a finger to clear the mouth from any vomit. In case the baby is still not breathing, position the infant flat and continue to perform CPR until the medical team arrives.

Important tips to bear in mind

You have to check again for a pulse after two minutes. In case the baby started to breathe on his/her own and the pulse returned, stop the CPR and stay with the infant until the medical team arrives. If the infant is still not breathing, continue to perform CPR.


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