WellSpan Home

Near-Drowning

Topic Overview

What is near-drowning?

Near-drowning is a common but out-of-date phrase for surviving a drowning event.

Drowning happens when a person is underwater and breathes water into the lungs. 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 begins to drop. A lack of oxygen can cause brain damage.

What happens after a person survives a drowning?

Right after a 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.

When to call your doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if a drowning victim has:

  • Lost consciousness.
  • Stopped breathing.
  • No heartbeat.
  • Inhaled water and then gasped for air, coughed up pink froth, vomited, or breathed rapidly.
  • Become confused or seems to be in an altered mental state.

Call a doctor now if a recent drowning victim has new breathing problems or signs of a lung infection, such as:

  • A cough with or without colored mucus.
  • Rapid breathing. Breaths may also be shallow.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • A fever.
  • An unusual level of weakness.
  • A whistling noise (wheezing) while breathing.
  • Tightness in the chest.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Christiani DC (2016). Physical and chemical injuries of the lung. In L Goldman, A Schafer, eds., Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 25th ed., vol. 1, pp. 595–602. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Shephard E, Quan L (2012). Drowning and submersion injury. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 341–348. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine

Current as ofNovember 20, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×