Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Or login with Facebook
    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    Drowning Is Not Always Fatal

    Drowning is not always fatal

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    Medical and health organizations around the world debated for a long time to determine what actually constitutes a drowning. In 2002, numerous worldwide organizations came together to create an official definition. Drowning is now defined as “the PROCESS of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in a liquid. If someone has difficulty breathing as a result of being underwater, then they have drowned.” Why is a definition so important you may ask?

    The means drowning is a process that is NOT always fatal, just like strokes and heart attacks do not always end in death. People survive heart attacks and strokes often, but occasionally they have complications. The same is true for drowning. Thousands of people survive drowning with no complications and sometimes they may have various degrees of brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

    That’s why immediate rescue breaths are so vital prior to giving CPR to drowning patients. Many people who receive standard CPR training today are only taught compressions. Advanced CPR training for rescuing someone drowning requires five initial rescue breaths, followed by rotating 30 compressions, and two breaths until help arrives.

    If someone survives drowning, they can exhibit symptoms that can progressively get worse if not treated. Blue lips and fingernails are serious signs of low oxygen levels. If anyone who has been underwater has symptoms of difficulty breathing, excessive cough, foam in their mouth, or they just aren’t acting right, they need to be taken to an emergency room immediately.

    Regardless of all the knowledge we have about drowning today, medical institutions and the media continue to use inaccurate terminology, especially on the internet, about non-fatal drownings like dry, wet, near, and delayed/secondary drowning. When cause of death is recorded as some subsequent result of drowning, such as respiratory arrest, the initial drowning cause of death is not accurately recorded.

    Starfish Aquatics Institute (SAI) estimates that fatal drownings account for approximately 10 deaths per day in the United States. However, the misuse of terminology makes it difficult for any organization in the U.S. to accurately count all drownings, including those not fatal. Based on emergency department data, SAI estimates that there are an additional 30 to 70 persons per day who drown and survive. That means that according to the official definition of drowning, possibly up to 80 persons per day are drowning in the U.S. and that’s astonishing!

    You’re never too old to learn to swim. Plus, you can improve your swimming skills with lessons and practice! Some classes are even offered with just you and an instructor. To find an adult swim lesson instructor in your area enter your zip code at

    According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers statistics on water-related fatalities, 89% of those who drown were not wearing a life jacket, and they’re only counting fatal drownings on the waters they manage. It’s undebatable that there would be many more people surviving drowning, without complications, if they had all worn a life jacket.

    References: Justin Sempscrott MD and Seth C. Hawkins MD, “Use of Terms Near, Dry, Delayed, and Secondary Drowning”, 2015, Starfish Aquatics Institute, Position Statement 15-1.



    Date Taken: 06.05.2018
    Date Posted: 06.05.2018 17:38
    Story ID: 279735
    Location: US

    Web Views: 2,033
    Downloads: 0