Spring break is less than a week away – who’s going on vacation?!
A report released by the Canadian Red Cross “found that the most frequent activities for immersion deaths are now aquatic, including swimming and wading. This is followed by boating, especially fishing”.
If you will be doing any of these activities on your holiday, this blog is for you.
As with many medical emergencies, CPR is a skillset that can help save the life of a drowning person. But, is CPR for drowning different?
If you are planning a beach getaway for your spring break, we want to make sure that you and your family are prepared in the event that your fun in the sun takes an unexpected turn.
What Happens To Someone Who Is Drowning?
Drowning occurs in a person if their ability to breathe has been inhibited after being submerged in liquid for an extended period of time. In the beginning stages of drowning, the airway closes in order to prevent additional water from entering the lungs. This function forces the individual to involuntarily hold their breath, leading to unconsciousness. If not revived through CPR, a condition known as Hypoxia will occur, in which insufficient levels of oxygen reach the cells. Without oxygen, organs begin to shut down and the individual will go into cardiac arrest.
Is CPR For Drowning Different?
Though CPR for drowning does not necessarily look “different” in how it is performed, mouth-to-mouth CPR is the only method that should be used. Compression-only CPR should not be considered. This is because cardiac arrests that are respiratory in origin require rescue breaths for successful resuscitation.
In fact, according to the European Resuscitation Council, “most drowning victims will have sustained cardiac arrest secondary to hypoxia. In these patients, compression-only CPR is likely to be ineffective and should be avoided”.
What Do I Do If Someone Is Drowning?
Look for a lifeguard and notify them of the emergency. Have someone call 911 as well.
Get The Person Out Of The Water
You may be in a position where you have to help a drowning patient if there is no lifeguard around. However, you should NOT do so if it means putting yourself in danger (i.e. you are not a strong swimmer, the water conditions are not safe, etc). Instead, try and find someone who can help you.
If it is safe for you to do so, get the person out of the water and place them on their back.
*If available, take a flotation device with you to retrieve the person from the water.
** If the person is still flailing in the water, do not attempt to rescue them without support or training and they will drag you under with them.
Check For Breathing & Pulse
Not Breathing, Has Pulse
A person who is not breathing but has a pulse is in respiratory arrest and needs immediate ventilations (breaths). The Red Cross recommends “1 ventilation every 5 to 6 seconds for an adult, with each ventilation lasting about 1 second and making the chest rise”.
No Breathing, No Pulse
Someone who is not breathing and does not have a pulse is in cardiac arrest. CPR or an AED needs to be administered immediately.
CPR & AED
In the situation of a public cardiac arrest, an AED is the best option. Have someone retrieve it for you while you administer mouth-to-mouth CPR on the patient. If there is no AED on site, continue CPR until help arrives.
*AEDs are safe to use on drowning patients, just be sure to dry the individual’s chest completely before applying the adhesive pads and ensure they are not laying in a pool of water.
As mentioned, compression-only CPR should may be ineffective in drowning scenarios. You can learn more about mouth-to-mouth CPR in our blog, Why CPR Breaths Still Matter.
*It is important to note that due to the level of water intake, chest compressions may induce vomiting in drowning patients. If vomiting occurs, rotate the patient onto their side to let the airway clear.
A relaxing day at the beach can turn dire in an instant. Make sure you are prepared for your vacation by taking a first aid course and purchasing a travel-friendly face shield to protect yourself during mouth-to-mouth CPR for drowning.