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Near-drowning is a term typically used to describe almost dying from suffocating under water. It is the last stage before fatal drowning, which results in death. Near-drowning victims still require medical attention to prevent related health complications.
Most people who nearly drown are young children, but drowning accidents can happen to anyone of any age.
Near-drowning occurs when you’re unable to breathe under water for a significant period of time. During near-drowning, your body is cut off from oxygen to the point where major body systems can begin to shut down from the lack of oxygen flow. In some cases (particularly in young children), this can happen in a matter of seconds. The process typically takes longer in adults.
It’s important to remember that it’s possible to revive a person who has been underwater for a long time.
The majority of near-drowning cases are attributed to accidents that occur near or in the water. The most common causes of near-drowning include:
It’s a misconception that you’re safe if you’re larger than a body of water. You can drown in just a couple of inches of water.
Someone who has nearly drowned may be unresponsive. Other symptoms include:
Near-drowning most often occurs when no lifeguard or medical professional is present. You may attempt to rescue the person from water, but only if it’s safe for you to do so. Tips for helping someone who is drowning include:
If two or more people are present with the victim, one should start CPR, while the other calls 911. If only one person is present with the victim, CPR should be done for one minute before calling 911.
Resuscitation may still be possible even if someone has been underwater for quite some time.
Near-drowning is not always fatal, but it can lead to health complications. For the best chances of recovery, seek help immediately.
Near-drowning can cause complications depending on how long a person is deprived oxygen. Complications may include:
Most people survive near-drowning after 24 hours of the initial incident.
Even if a person has been under water for a long time, it may still be possible to resuscitate them. Do not make a judgment call based on time. Call 911 and perform CPR. You may save a life.
Thousands of near-drowning cases occur each year. Many are preventable accidents. To stay safe around water:
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury related death in children 1-4 years old. Preventing near-drowning in children requires extra precautions. Here are some safety measures:
Learning CPR could save a loved one’s life. Take a CPR workshop or watch a training video. The American Red Cross has information on classes as well as instructional videos on their website. Keep in mind that CPR can help facilitate breathing, but it shouldn’t be used in place of emergency medical help.
Written by: Kristeen Moore
Medically reviewed on: Mar 27, 2017: Stacy Sampson, DO
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