Near Drowning

Drowning occurs when a person suffocates to death in water. Near drowning is when a person gets very near to death but is saved and resuscitated or otherwise does not die after a water accident. In many cases of near drowning, the loss of oxygen causes the patient to lose brain function to some degree. After a near drowning incident, the risk of death is still eminent for about 72 hours.

Near Drowning Warning Signs

When a swimmer begins to lose oxygen, there are certain warning signs that may alert others to the possibility that the swimmer is near drowning. Often a swimmer will not be able to yell for help, so if a swimmer begins to flail or panic, it can be a warning sign. More subtly, if a swimmer begins to make uneven movements, or is visibly having trouble staying afloat it can signify that the swimmer is near drowning. Coming upon a fully clothed person swimming in water can indicate that an accident has occurred. In all of these situations, fast action may prevent loss of life or function if the swimmer is near drowning.

Near Drowning Prevention

In many near drowning situations, a rescuer will take risks that could cause injury or death. A person attempting to save another that is near drowning should never go into water or onto ice to save another. The best way to take a near drowning victim out of harm’s way is to extend a pole, rope, or buoyant object with a tether to the person. Emergency services should be contacted as soon as possible to help with the rescue effort.

After Removal from Water

After the near drowning victim has been removed from the water, anyone that is capable should administer CPR. The patient may have injuries to the head, neck, or spine, so anyone attempting to resuscitate the patient should move the patient as little as possible. The patient should be kept calm and still while waiting for emergency services to arrive. If hypothermia is a concern, wet clothing should be removed and dry blankets, towels, or clothing should be given.

Immediate Near Drowning Consequences

Immediately following a near drowning incidents, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue skin, especially on the lips
  • Abdominal swelling or distention
  • Cold, pale skin
  • Lethargy or restlessness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coughing ranging from mild to severe
  • Confusion

Prolonged Near Drowning Consequences

Near drowning incidents differ greatly in the long term consequences. The amount of damage sustained depends mostly on the amount of time that the patient was without oxygen, but other factors such as health problems and age of the victim may also come into play. If a near drowning patient has suffered injuries in addition to oxygen deprivation, these injuries may hinder rehabilitation.

Long term consequences of a near drowning incident may include:

  • Coma
  • Limited mobility
  • Loss of some cognitive functions
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Complications from loss of blood flow to extremities




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