Near-drowning is respiratory impairment from being in or under a liquid. Normal air exchange is prevented by inhaled liquid when a person’s nose and mouth are under the surface of a liquid or when a person’s face comes in contact with liquid.
Near-drowning is caused by liquid, most commonly water, filling the lungs resulting in breathing problems. At first, the person will hold their breath. Eventually, the person will no longer be able to hold it. The liquid will then flow into the lungs. This liquid will not allow the normal gas exchange in the lungs to happen.
Factors that may increase your chance of near-drowning include:
Children are most often the victims of near-drowning. The following factors increase a child’s risk of near-drowning:
Symptoms of near-drowning may include:
In some people, breathing problems may not happen until several hours after a near-drowning accident.
A near-drowning injury will be diagnosed based on events and symptoms. A physical exam will be done.
Imaging tests can assess bodily structures. These may include:
Your doctor may need to test your body's oxygen levels. This can be done with:
Brain Damage from Lack of Oxygen
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Call for emergency medical services right away. Treatment will depend on how badly the near-drowning episode damaged the body.
Emergency response and first aid must be done quickly to restore breathing and prevent death.
Nasogastric (purple) and Endotracheal Intubation
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Near-drowning can cause delayed complications from the incident or treatment. Further treatment that is needed depends on what the complications are and their severity.
Complications may include:
To help reduce chance that that you or someone you know will drown:
American Red Cross
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Red Cross
Children’s Safety Association of Canada
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113803/Acute-respiratory-distress-syndrome-ARDS. Updated July 27, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Burford AE, Ryan LM, Stone BJ, Hirshon JM, Klein BL Drowning and near-drowning in children and adolescents: A succinct review for emergency physicians and nurses. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2005;21(9):617-619.
Driscoll TR, Harrison JA, Steenkamp M. Review of the role of alcohol in drowning associated with recreational aquatic activity. Inj Prev. 2004;10(2):107-113.
Harries M. Near drowning. BMJ. 2003;327(7427):1336-1338.
Near-drowning. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115798/Near-drowning. Updated February 18, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Salomez F, Vincent JL. Drowning: A review of epidemiology, pathophysiology, treatment, and prevention. Resuscitation. 2004;63(3):261-268.
Sibert J, John N, Jenkins D, et al. Drowning of babies in bath seats: Do they provide false reassurance? Child Care Health Dev. 2005;31(3):255-259.
Szpilman D, Bierens JJ, Handley AJ, Orlowski JP. Drowning. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(22):2102-2110.
5/28/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115798/Near-drowning: Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Policy statement—Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):178-185.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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