Near drowning

Near drowning is an outdated term used for surviving a drowning event. It is important to note that drowning occurs if an individual is underwater and inhales water into the lungs. The airway spasms and shuts close or water can impair the lungs and prevents it from taking in oxygen. In either case, the lungs could not supply enough oxygen to the body.

Once the oxygen in the body is depleted, it triggers a rapid effect such as the following:

  • An individual loses consciousness within 3 minutes underwater
  • In 5 minutes, the oxygen supply in the brain starts to drop. The absence of oxygen can result to brain damage.

What happens after surviving a drowning episode?

Right after an individual survives drowning, he/she might:

  • Appear fine
  • Become unconscious, unable to breathe or does not have a heartbeat
  • Coughs up pinkish froth, gasps for air, vomits or rapidly breathes
    Near drowning

    An individual loses consciousness within 3 minutes underwater

Even a small amount of water inside the lungs can trigger serious lung issues in the ensuing hours or days. Emergency care is essential after an individual survives drowning.

When to consult a doctor

Call for emergency assistance right away if a drowning victim has the following:

  • Loses consciousness
  • There is no heartbeat
  • Ceases to breathe
  • Individual inhaled water and gasped for air, vomited, coughed up pinkish froth or breathes rapidly
  • Becomes confused or appears to have an altered mental status

Do not hesitate to call a doctor right away if an individual who recently survived drowning starts to experience new breathing issues or indications of lung infection such as the following are present:

  • Fever
  • Coughing with or without colored mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing that can be shallow
  • Unusual level of weakness
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing

More Information / Disclaimer

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


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