What is nonfatal drowning?

What can you expect after a child's nonfatal drowning?

How long it takes your child to get better depends on many things, including the temperature of the water and how long your child was under the water. It can take from a few days to many months.

Your child may have changes in how he or she thinks or concentrates. These symptoms get better over time in most children. But some children have lasting effects.

What are the signs of a nonfatal drowning?

Right after a nonfatal drowning, a person may:

  • Be unconscious, unable to breathe, or without a heartbeat.
  • Gasp for air, cough up pink froth, vomit, or breathe rapidly.
  • Seem to be fine.

Even a little water in the lungs can cause serious lung problems in the next hours or days. Emergency medical care is critical after a person survives a drowning.

How is nonfatal drowning treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Help with breathing. A machine called a ventilator will gently push air into your lungs. You may have a tube down your throat that is attached to the ventilator.
  • Medicines to help prevent infection or to treat symptoms, such as seizures or pressure on the brain, if they occur. These may be given through a vein (I.V.).
  • Fluids or nutrition given through a vein (I.V.).
  • Supportive care. You will be watched carefully and given treatment to help prevent serious problems such as seizures and brain damage.

What is nonfatal drowning?

Drowning happens when a person is underwater and breathes water into the lungs. A drowning that doesn't result in death is often called a nonfatal drowning.

When a person drowns, the airway (larynx) can spasm and close, or water can damage the lungs and keep them from taking in oxygen. In either case, the lungs can't supply oxygen to the body. This can be deadly.

Going without oxygen has a rapid effect on the body.

  • Within 3 minutes underwater, most people lose consciousness.
  • Within 5 minutes underwater, the brain's oxygen supply starts to drop. A lack of oxygen can cause brain damage.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.