Home First Aid

Week 11

Near Drowning vs Drowning

As Spring and Summer approaches we need to be Alert.

The GREATEST GIFT OF LIFE we can give any adult or child is to teach them how to swim. Living in South Africa we are lucky to have a warm climate and we can enjoy the pleasures of a swim to cool down. Every year we see people of all ages dying in South Africa in our pools, rivers, dams and sea.

To start we need to know the difference between Drowning and Near Drowning. When a patient drowns, that means that they have died from water related incidents. When a patient drowns but has been successfully resuscitated and survives, it is known as Near Drowning.

The one is as bad as the other. Both can have severe consequences for the patient. When a patient starts to drown there is very little water that makes its way into the lungs but rather the bodies defense mechanism that tries to stop the water from entering the lungs that stops us from breathing. The brain can only survive 4 to 6 minutes with out oxygen before it starts to die and the heart needs a constant supply. When someone find themselves in difficulty they start to panic and this starts a chain reaction in the body for survival, this action leads to fatigue and is the first biggest mistake. Always remain calm till help arrives.

The difference between Near Drowning in Fresh Water or Sea Water.

Fresh Water / Pool Water

Chemicals – can cause burns to the lungs

Bacteria – can cause infection in the lungs

Fresh water is absorbed from the lungs into the blood stream and causes the blood vessels to burst.

Sea Water

Effluent – can cause bacterial infections in the lungs

Strong currents – makes you tired very quickly (stay calm always)

Salt water absorbs fluids from the body to neutralize the salt balance in the lungs and causes the lungs to fill up with fluid. This is called Secondary Drowning.


These articles are not meant to replace first aid training courses and Micange Trading, and owners thereof, shall not assume liability. It is strongly advised that you qualify for first aid training and revise it every 3 years.

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