Drowning - near
"Near drowning" means a person almost died from not being able to breathe (suffocating) under water.
If a person has been rescued from a near-drowning situation, quick first aid and medical attention are very important.
When someone is drowning:
If the person's breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing as soon as you can. This often means starting the breathing process while still in the water.
Continue to breathe for the person every few seconds while moving him or her to dry land. Once on land, give CPR as needed.
Always use caution when moving a person who is drowning. Assume that the person may have a neck or spine injury, and avoid turning or bending their neck. Keep the head and neck very still during CPR and while moving the person. You can tape the head to a backboard or stretcher, or secure the neck by placing rolled towels or other objects around it.
Follow these additional steps:
Important safety tips:
The Heimlich maneuver is NOT part of the routine rescue of near drownings. Do NOT perform the Heimlich maneuver unless repeated attempts to position the airway and rescue breathing have failed and you think the person's airway is blocked. Performing the Heimlich maneuver increases the chances that an unconscious person will vomit and then choke on the vomit.
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you cannot rescue the drowning person without putting yourself in danger. If you are trained and able to rescue the person, do so and then call for medical help.
All near-drowning patients should be checked by a doctor. Even though the person may quickly seem OK at the scene, lung complications are common. Fluid and body chemical (electrolyte) imbalances may develop. Other traumatic injuries may be present.
Some tips to help prevent near-drowning are:
Caglar D, Quan L. Drowning and submersion injury. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 74.
Richards DB, Jacquet GA. Drowning. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al., eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 145.
Last reviewed on: 1/12/2015
Reviewed by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 10/25/2016.