So the weather is warmer and we will all get a chance to go swimming in the ocean or a nearby pool. However, medical emergencies are something we don’t want to think about; the mere thought of a loved one having an emergency is enough to make our minds engage in evasive maneuvers. But the thing is, planning for a medical emergency before there’s an actual emergency is one the best ways to prepare and stay calm (or as calm as possible), were an emergency to occur. Do you know what to do if someone is drowning? Drowning is one such emergency, but luckily, it’s one of the easiest to prepare for. Unlike broken bones, a heart attack or similar situation, you don’t need a medical degree to react to drowning: you just need a cool head and some basic first aid skills–and a phone handy, so you can call 911.
Drowning is a Leading Cause of Death First and foremost, you should know that drowning is the fifth-most common cause of accidental injury death in the United States. It’s most common in the very young and very old, and especially for the young, it can happen anywhere: in the pool and at the beach, but also at home in a kiddie pool or bathtub. It takes just a few seconds and a few inches of water.
Prevent Drowning Before it Happens As in all things safety, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just a few quick words about preventing drowning:
- Teach everyone in your family to swim
- Never leave children unattended near water (even a few inches of bath water)
- Install a safety fence around your pool, and locks on your hot tub cover
- Only swim where there are lifeguards
- Do not dive into unfamiliar water
What to Do When Someone is Drowning Accidents happen. Do you know what drowning really looks like? The first and foremost important thing to know about drowning is how to recognize it. Because it’s not like what you see in the movies: instead of screaming and splashing, drowning is often silent. So if you see someone’s head quietly but strangely disappearing beneath the surface, know that s/he might be in as much trouble as a swimmer who is flailing and calling for help. Once you know that someone needs help, here’s what to do:
- Alert the lifeguard: Unless you are a trained lifeguard, do not attempt to rescue a drowning person; they are often panicked and may pull you under.
- Call 911: As soon as you’ve notified the lifeguard, your next move is to call 911 immediately. Explain that someone is drowning, so that the EMTs can ready themselves on the way.
- Provide flotation: Pools and beaches should be equipped with life-saving flotation devices, often attached to a rope that you can use to pool a swimmer to safety.
- Take life-saving measures: If the drowning victim is unconscious, do not immediately give CPR! . First, tilt his or her head back, lift the chin and check for breathing. If s/he is not breathing, give two slow rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth). If the breaths go in, you may start CPR, provided you are trained. If the breaths do not go in, reposition the head and chin, and try again. If you give CPR, know that in real life, CPR is aggressive enough to break ribs. And in addition to coughing up water, drowning victims often vomit during resuscitation; this is normal. Click right here for a very helpful PDF File from RedCross.org on CPR for adults. Here is the same guide for CPR on children.
- Wait for help: Provided you called 911