It’s that time of summer fun which means water fun!!! I love the water and so do my children and grandchildren. But in this post, I want to talk about a more serious aspect of water fun. After attending a pediatric nursing refresher conference last month, I wanted to give a review of one of the potential dangers of water fun…drowning.
According to the World Congress of Drowning: “Drowning is a process resulting in primary respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in a liquid medium.” This definition makes an important distinction between the definition used since the 1970’s. We used to call it a drowning only if the patient died. We used terms such as “wet drowning”, “dry drowning”, “secondary drowning”. Today, the only term used is drowning and it refers not only to someone who has died as a result of water submersion/immersion, but anyone who suffered respiratory impairment as a result of submersion/immersion.
Drowning is the number ONE cause of injury related death for children under 5 years of age in these states: California, Arizona, Florida, and Texas and is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury related death worldwide. More than 50% of drowning victims treated in the ER require hospitalization or transfer to a higher level of care. Non-fatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities from mild learning disabilities to a permanent vegetative state.
Hypoxia, lack of oxygen, occurs immediately with aspiration of liquid. This is why, although compression only CPR is good, these patients need oxygen and therefore the rescue breaths are essential in addition to the compressions. The hypoxia doesn’t go away quickly. The patient can remain hypoxic, even after they start breathing on their own, for up to 3 days after the event. The extent of any cognitive damage won’t be known until the child is older. There a number of other injuries that may also occur with drowning. (I can review these in another post if you’d like.) We have a number of tools to use in the ER to minimize brain injury.
So, I don’t mean to bring anyone down or frighten anyone away from the water. I just want to give a few safety reminders:
1) Always watch your children while in the tub, playing with a bucket of water, or while they are around any body of water.
2) Consider teaching your children to swim as early as 6 months old. See Infant Swimming Resource
3) Keep your phone with you so can call 911 if needed.
4) If the child, or adult, has been submerged/ immersed in water, call 911 and have them taken to the ER for evaluation even if they seem alright. The effects of respiratory injury may not be evident right away.
5) If the child, or adult, has been submerged/immersed in water and is unconscious, call 911 and then perform CPR with chest compressions AND rescue breaths.
6) Let your children enjoy the bath, the pool, the splash pad and other bodies of water. Just let them enjoy it under your watchful eye.