Near-Drowning

(Drowning; Submersion Incident)

Definition

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.

Causes

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.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of near-drowning include:
  • Use of drugs or alcohol prior to incident
  • Not knowing how to swim
  • Rough play around water or unsafe diving resulting in trauma
  • Risk-taking behavior around pools or other bodies of water
  • Being in a body of water and having a prior medical condition, such as seizure disorder, fainting, cardiac conditions, or hypoglycemia.
Children are most often the victims of near-drowning. The following factors increase a child’s risk of near-drowning:
  • Not knowing how to swim
  • Being unsupervised around water
  • Having an unfenced pool or spa in the home
  • Among children less than 1 year old, the most common risk factor for near-drowning is being left in a bathtub unattended (even for a few minutes)

Symptoms

Symptoms of near-drowning may include:
  • Drowsiness
  • Being unconscious
  • Inability to breathe
  • Gasping for breath
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Blue skin due to lack of oxygen
  • Seizures
  • Cardiopulmonary arrest
In some people, breathing problems may not happen until several hours after a near-drowning accident.

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