Drowning Emergencies

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A drowning casualty usually suffocates in water because drowning causes the airways to shutdown to prevent the entrance of water. This also prevents air from entering the lungs, thus causing the casualty to faint and die in extreme situations.

In many cases, if the person is unconscious while drowning, his lungs get filled up with water. The water may enter the stomach as well which causes the casualty to vomit. This may lead to choking on vomit.

A good method of drowning prevention is to only swim in lifeguarded areas.


  • Cool, pale skin
  • Impaired or absent breathing
  • Shallow or absent heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Skin turns blue
  • Shock
  • Hypothermia


Victims of drowning are often very difficult to save as in panic mode; casualty’s may grab onto the rescuer and victimize him as well. Therefore, it is necessary that you do not attempt at rescuing a drowning casualty if you have not received the proper training to do so. Make sure you go to the rescue with the required equipment. In a drowning rescue mission, follow these steps:

  1. Safety first! Do not rush to the situation until you are sure that you are safe as well. Make sure you go to the rescue with proper equipment for your own safety.
  2. If you are not alone, have someone call 911 immediately.
  3. If the casualty is awake and is able to follow instructions, throw a rigid oar to pull him towards the land. If the casualty is too far away, throw a  rope or a lifesaver attached to a rope so that he can grab onto it.
  4. If the rope is not long enough to reach out to the casualty, make a human chain by holding hands, if enough people are available.
  5. You may also have someone tie a rope around your waist and hold the other end while you swim towards a victim.
  6. Use the rope to reach out to the victim. Do not bring your own body towards a victim as a panicking casualty may victimize you by clawing you as well.
  7. In case the casualty is unconscious, tie the rope around his waist and allow the rescuer to withdraw it.
  8. Perform first aid to the casualty once he is out of the water. Remove all wet and tight clothes from the victim.
  9. Expect the casualty to incur hypothermia. If the person is suffering from hypothermia, cover him with a warm blanket.
  10. Check the ABCs of first aid: Awake? Breathing? Continuous care.
  11. If the casualty is unconscious or is not breathing, begin CPR immediately.


  • Even if a person is nearly drowning, seek medical attention immediately and go to the rescue. If small amounts of water reach into the lungs, the situation can lead to further filling of fluids in the lungs called dry drowning which is a lethal condition. Be alert and check for choking or drowning victims at all times.
  • If you are a swimmer, only swim in pools or water areas surrounded by lifeguards.

Learn More

To learn more about water safety and other first aid emergencies take workplace approved training programs. Red Deer First Aid also provides lifeguarding courses. A prerequisite to becoming a lifeguard is sound knowledge of first aid emergencies which requires candidates to enrol into standard first aid (click here to view available classes).

Related Video to Drownings



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