Drowning: First Aid Steps

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Drowning is a quick and often silent occurrence that can happen even in the shallowest of waters. This blog aims to shed light on essential first aid measures and preventative steps that can be the difference between life and death. Whether it’s a planned day out or a spontaneous dip in the water, understanding drowning can help us keep our loved ones safe.


Understanding drowning

Drowning occurs when someone has difficulty breathing because their nose and mouth are submerged in liquid. With countless drowning incidents reported annually, awareness and preparedness are key.

Water safety rules are the bedrock of drowning prevention. It starts with respect for the water and understanding that even strong swimmers are not immune to the dangers of drowning. By acknowledging that water safety is a priority, we can set the stage for safer interactions with water, whether it’s a day at the beach or an afternoon by the pool.

Embracing safety around water requires a holistic approach. It’s about being aware of the environment, such as the presence of currents and riptides that can catch even the most seasoned swimmers off guard. It’s also about making smart choices, such as avoiding swimming alone and staying within designated swim areas where help is more readily available.

In essence, understanding drowning means recognising that it doesn’t just happen to others—it can happen to anyone, anytime, and often when it’s least expected.

Drowning and children: A critical concern

Young children are especially at risk of drowning due to their curiosity and lack of awareness. Inattentive moments can lead to danger, even in shallow water. Supervision is critical, and swimming lessons are essential for equipping kids with survival skills. Yet, lessons aren’t foolproof; vigilant adult supervision and the use of personal flotation devices are key to preventing accidents. Parents and guardians must be alert and proactive in watching over children near water to avert potential tragedies.

safety tips

The different types of drowning

It’s important to note that there are various types of drownings. These can happen in fresh-water lakes, dams or rivers or in the sea or a lagoon. They can be categorised as follows:

  • Dry drowning: When the person drowning inhales water which causes the vocal cords to spasm and close, trapping air in the lungs hence lungs being “dry”. As the lungs are still full of air, these patients will usually float.
  • Wet drowning: When the aforementioned spasm now relaxes, water enters the lungs. These patients will often sink to the bottom of the body of water.
  • Secondary drowning: When the person was rescued in time, complications arose due to excessive water entering the lungs. 

With saltwater drownings, the salt content draws blood into the lungs causing pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs), and with fresh water, any bacteria in the water could result in an infection in the lungs.

First Aid steps for drowning

When faced with a potential drowning situation, knowing the correct first aid steps can save a life. Remembering the acronym “D, R, A, B, C, D” can help you swiftly recall the necessary actions:

  • Danger: Your safety is paramount. Assess the situation for any potential risks to yourself before attempting a rescue.
  • Response: Check if the person is responsive by gently tapping their shoulders and asking loudly if they’re okay.
  • Airway: Ensure the airway is clear. If they’re not breathing, open their mouth and look for obstructions. Tilt their head back slightly to open the airway.
  • Breathing: Look for chest movements, listen for breathing sounds, and feel for breath on your cheek. If there’s no sign of breathing, commence CPR.
  • Call and Circulation: Call the emergency services and continue CPR—30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths.
  • Defibrillation: If an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available and the individual is unresponsive, use it as soon as possible.

During this process, it’s essential to call for emergency medical help. In instances where water is present in the person’s airway, carefully roll them onto their side to allow the water to drain out, ensuring their neck and back are kept in a straight line if a spinal injury is suspected.

Training in first aid and CPR is invaluable and can significantly boost a person’s chances of surviving a drowning incident. Courses are readily available and provide the hands-on experience necessary to perform these life-saving procedures correctly. Equip yourself with these skills—you never know when you might be someone’s lifeline.

learning to swim

10 Water Safety Tips to Prevent Drowning

The best approach to preventing drowning is to be proactive about water safety. Here are 10 water safety tips that everyone should keep in mind:

1. Learn to swim properly: Knowing how to swim reduces the risk of drowning. Swimming lessons are crucial for all ages.

2. Never swim alone: Always swim with a buddy, and choose swimming pools and spots with lifeguards whenever possible.

3. Supervise children: Never leave young children unattended near water. Maintain constant visual contact.

4. Use life jackets: Make sure everyone, especially children and weak swimmers, wear suitable life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, even if they know how to swim.

5. Establish safety rules: Set clear water safety rules for your family, such as no running near the pool and no diving in shallow water.

6. Avoid alcohol: Alcohol impairs judgement and swimming ability. Stay sober when you’re in or near water.

7. Designated swim areas: Swim in designated areas that are well-marked and known to be safe.

8. Learn First Aid and CPR: Equip yourself with the necessary skills to respond in a water emergency.

9. Know the signs of drowning: Recognize the signs of drowning and know how to call for emergency help immediately.

10. Respect the water: Understand that conditions can change quickly. Pay attention to weather and water conditions and heed warnings.

By incorporating these safety tips into our water experiences, we not only ensure our enjoyment but significantly decrease the risk of drowning incidents. 

How to improve water safety

Water safety at home, especially with home pools, is vital. To prevent drowning, secure the pool with a self-latching fence and maintain active adult supervision, with a designated ‘water watcher’ if necessary. Ensure everyone in the home, especially young children, learns to swim through swimming lessons. Use personal flotation devices for added safety, and keep rescue equipment on hand. Together with first aid and CPR knowledge, these measures create a safer swimming environment.


In conclusion, Absolute Health Services emphasises the critical importance of drowning prevention and first aid proficiency. By understanding drowning types, practicing water safety rules, and mastering first aid steps, we can safeguard against this preventable disaster.

Let’s embrace the 10 water safety tips, watch over young children diligently, and equip those with pools withdrowning prevention nets. Safety is a shared responsibility.

Join us in a first aid or CPR course and stay informed, prepared, and vigilant.

First Aid Kit Checklist

Ensure that you always have a correctly stocked First Aid Box in your workplace as per the Regulation 7.

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