DROWNING AND NEAR DROWNING
Section I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS OF DROWNING AND NEAR DROWNING
DEFINITION DROWNING/NEAR DROWNING
Drowning ranks as the fourth leading cause of accidental deaths in the United
States, accounting for approximately 7,000 deaths annually. All ages are affected, but
the greatest incidence is in the 20 to 29 year old age group. The terms "drown" and
"near drowning" have a lethal connotation. The term "drown" means to suffocate under
water. The term "near drowning," in this lesson, describes submersion in water from
which an individual survives, at least temporarily.
PROCESS OF DROWNING/NEAR DROWNING
In cases of drowning or near drowning, something goes wrong in the water--
swallowing of water, fatigue, strong water currents, injury, cold, entanglement in kelp,
loss of orientation, etc., and the person panics losing control of the situation. This
sequence of events may then take place:
a. The victim goes underwater, further panics, and water enters his mouth and
nose. He coughs and gasps, swallowing a great deal of water.
b. The victim aspirates (inhales) a small amount of water into his larynx (area
with vocal cords and trachea (windpipe)).
c. This causes spasms of the laryngeal muscles (laryngospasms) thus sealing
off the airway and protecting it, for the moment, from inhalation of more water.
d. This airway obstruction eventually causes the victim to lose consciousness
from hypoxemia (lack of oxygen in the blood).
e. If the victim remains in the water, the laryngeal muscles relax as the asphyxia
progresses. When the laryngeal muscles relax, water enters the lungs in massive
f. What happens next depends on the type of water in which the incident takes
place: fresh water, salt water, or cold water.