Drowning occurs if an individual is underwater and inhales water into the lungs. The airway might spasm and seal shut or water can impair the lungs and prevent them from obtaining oxygen. In whichever case, the lungs could not allocate the required oxygen to the body which can be life-threatening.
Once there is lack of oxygen, it triggers a rapid effect throughout the body.
- Within 3 minutes of being underwater, most lose consciousness.
- Within 5 minutes of being submerged in water, the oxygen supply to the brain starts to dwindle. The lack of oxygen can lead to damage to the brain.
What happens if an individual survives drowning?
Immediately after a drowning episode, the individual might:
- Lose consciousness, has difficulty breathing or has no heart beat
- Gasp for air, vomit, cough up pinkish froth or rapidly breathe
- Appear fine
Remember that even with little water in the lungs, it can cause serious lung issues in the next hours or days. Immediate medical care is vital after an individual survives a drowning episode.
When to consult a doctor?
Call for emergency assistance right away if a drowning individual has:
- Lost consciousness
- No heart beat
- Ceased to breathe
- Breathed in water and gasps for air, coughs up pinkish froth, vomits or breathes rapidly
- Confusion or appears to be in an altered mental state
A doctor must be consulted right away if an individual who recently drowned develops new breathing issues or indications of a lung infection such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Cough with or without colored mucus
- Rapid breathing or shallow breaths
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing while breathing
- Unusual level of weakness
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on near drowning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage environmental emergencies, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.