Pre-hospital Management of Drowning Events

As summer approaches, drowning events across Australia will be more prevalent. Healthcare professionals can assist in the community during these stressful emergencies, and use their skills to help manage drowning events.

As summer approaches, drowning events across Australia will be more prevalent. Last year with the hottest summer on record, saw an increase of 17% drowning deaths compared to the previous 10-year average. Healthcare professionals can assist in the community during these stressful emergencies, and use their skills to help manage drowning events. We can initiate immediate treatment by directing bystanders to call for assistance and position the person into a safe place to start emergency care. Below is a quick reminder if you are ever in the situation of needing to assist someone who has had a near drowning event.

Steps in managing a near drowning event:

  • Remove the person from water & any other dangers, without endangering yourself or bystanders
  • Follow DRS ABCD to quickly assess the person
  • Commence CPR if required - avoid delays or interruptions
  • Compression only CPR is not recommended, as effective ventilation is required to address the hypoxaemia and hypoxia
  • If vomiting/regurgitating turn the person into the left lateral position, point their mouth downwards to protect the airway
  • Remove wet clothing and apply warm, dry blankets when possible
  • Apply supplemental oxygen when available to keep saturations > 94%
  • Take spinal precautions if risk factors present or clinical signs of spinal cord injury
  • Ensure the person is transported to hospital for further assessment and management as required


If you are looking for further updates on drowning and other emergencies, join us at our popular Acute Life-threatening Emergencies, Recognition and Treatment (ALERT™) course. 

It covers a range of emergency situations, focusing on the recognition and immediate treatment for medical, nursing and paramedic professionals. It is accredited for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with a variety of medical colleges, and qualifies for 12 hours of CPD for nursing professionals. Our next ALERT events will be at:

References:

Australian Resuscitation Council (2014) Guideline 9.3.2 Resuscitation of the Drowning Victim, March, Melbourne, accessed October 219 at https://resus.org.au/glossary/drowning-guideline-9-3-2/ 

Emergency Care Institute New South Wales (2017) Drowning, September, Chatswood, accessed October 2019 at https://www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/networks/eci/clinical/clinical-resources/clinical-tools/environmental-health/submersion

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia (2019) Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2019, Sydney Australia, accessed October 2019 at https://www.royallifesaving.com.au/facts-and-figures/research-and-reports/drowning-reports

{{commentCount}} comment(s). You must be logged in and AHPRA verified to view and comment. Login here.

Crystal Smith

Crystal Smith is a Senior Education Consultant for Critical Care Education Services (part of the Medcast Group). She has a clinical background in critical care, paediatrics and education.

The latest healthcare news from medcast

Telehealth: How does it work In Practice
Telehealth: How does it work In Practice

We are all starting to do telehealth in the current climate to protect us, our staff and our patients. Many of us feel slightly out of our depth. Here are some quick tips to help you in your practice.

COVID-19 and Us
COVID-19 and Us

Isn’t it ironic that, just when mental health practitioners are ramping up their discussion about social isolation and its really potent impact on mental health and wellbeing, a nasty little virus comes along that asks us all to adopt a lifestyle ...

Telehealth and COVID-19 Update
Telehealth and COVID-19 Update

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases exponentially in Australia many of us will be exploring the new telehealth item numbers. The information on these seem to be changing daily, but currently these are the key things to know.

Coronavirus
Coronavirus

Since the start of 2020, coronavirus has hit the world and caused unprecedented levels of concern among public and health professionals alike.

Oropharyngeal Airways in Paediatric Patients
Oropharyngeal Airways in Paediatric Patients

Oropharyngeal airways (OPAs) have some additional considerations when utilising in paediatric patients, to ensure safe use in children.

Why are we so bad at making the self-care message stick?
Why are we so bad at making the self-care message stick?

“I looked at that list you gave me.” There was no mistaking the anger in my patient’s eyes. “I can’t believe you would suggest that I could get better from this by taking some deep breaths or going for a walk! I don’t think you understand my situa...

PODCAST: Iliotibial Band Syndrome
PODCAST: Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Milo, aged 26, comes to see you with lateral knee pain. As GPs how do we diagnose, treat and manage this?

Easing the Lingering Symptoms of Depression
Easing the Lingering Symptoms of Depression

Despite our best efforts, most patients who experience depression are left with residual symptoms that linger beyond the completion of treatment. Whether it be low motivation, low mood, self-criticism, guilt or worry, residual symptoms of depressi...

Recognising and responding to deteriorating patients: a matter of life or death
Recognising and responding to deteriorating patients: a matter of life or death

The most recent update of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Deaths in Australia report shows that in 2017 there were a total of 160,909 recorded deaths in Australia. 50% of these were found to be potentially avoidable within ...

A new approach to mental health care
A new approach to mental health care

I’m a GP with a special interest in mental health. For the past three years I have been working with Medibank health solutions to support the implementation of a range of programs for people with chronic and complex health conditions.

Out of Office - Dr Simon Curtis
Out of Office - Dr Simon Curtis

Find out more about Simon, co-founder of the Hot Topics course internationally in his 'Out of Office' before seeing him in person at Hot Topics Australia.

Team GP – why we need to learn together
Team GP – why we need to learn together

Learning is all about making some sort of change. As GPs, it can be easy for us to think of our learning simply as a process we go through to tick a box. But maybe we should be thinking more deeply about the types of learning that truly cause us t...

PODCAST: Hypocalcaemia
PODCAST: Hypocalcaemia

Sundeep, a 63 year old office worker, presents with intermittent nagging loin pain and achy muscles.

Stop Before You Block: A Block Time-Out
Stop Before You Block: A Block Time-Out

The Stop Before You Block (SB4YB) initiative is a patient safety campaign designed to help reduce the risk of inadvertent wrong-sided anaesthetic blocks.

Moments of Joy
Moments of Joy

This year I’ve decided to practice what I preach. I’m starting with something that has evolved from last year’s eye-opening experience with keeping a gratitude diary when, along with other members of my team at work, I participated in the 6-week M...

Vaping - Friend or Foe?
Vaping - Friend or Foe?

Where are we with vaping? Are e-cigarettes the shining knight who will rid the world of cigarettes or dangerous products wrapped up in clever marketing with the 'unintended consequence' of luring young people into the world of smoking?

On being a GP seeking help
On being a GP seeking help

I had an interesting experience at my GP recently. I don’t go to the GP very often. Mostly I don’t get sick. Sometimes I treat my own ills or just soldier on. On the few occasions that I have been to see someone about something concerning me, my ...

Let’s talk about self-soothing
Let’s talk about self-soothing

I talk to a lot of health professionals and it amazes me how often people look at me blankly when I introduce the subject of self-soothing activities. As the conversation progresses I can see most of the blank looks turn to some degree of understa...

Can I have medical cannabis on PBS doctor?
Can I have medical cannabis on PBS doctor?

I’ve been asked this question twice in the last month. Once by a 70 year old patient who has taken up smoking weed to control her neuropathic pain, let’s call her ‘Rachel’. And the other a young man aged 26 (Sean) who is smoking cannabis to help c...

Standardising Emergency Numbers: The Push for 2222
Standardising Emergency Numbers: The Push for 2222

The move to standardise emergency numbers within hospitals, to make them similar to the standardised emergency numbers that are utilised in the community setting, is gaining momentum.

Join Medcast. It's free and you'll get instant access to essential healthcare news, research and more.

Already a member? Sign-in