crsheader Index Drowning

First Aid

Have someone call a rescue squad (911) immediately.

  • Resuscitation

    Begin mouth-to-mouth breathing as soon as possible. This should be started immediately in the boat, or at the latest when the rescuer reaches shallow water. It should be continued until the child is brought to a medical facility; some children have survived long submersions (especially in cold water).

  • Neck injury

    If there is any possibility of a neck injury (for example, a diving accident), protect the neck from any bending or twisting. If the child is still in the water, he or she can be helped to float on the surface until a spine board is applied or until several people can remove him while supporting his head and back as a unit.

  • Vomiting

    Vomiting is common because the stomach is usually filled with water in drowning. If vomiting occurs, quickly turn the child on his or her side, face down, and try to keep the water from entering the lungs. The lungs are usually free of water because they are protected by spasm of the vocal cords. Avoid pressure on the stomach during resuscitation because it can trigger vomiting.


  1. Never leave a child under age 4 unattended in the bathtub or a wading pool. If you need to answer the doorbell or phone, grab a towel and take your child with you.
  2. Watch children and never leave them alone around water, including wadding pools, swimming pools, spas or hot tubs, ponds, lakes, streams, or any other open water. (More children drown in backyard swimming pools than at beaches or public pools.)
  3. Make sure that neighborhood pools are totally fenced off and the gates are kept locked.
  4. Try to arrange swimming lessons for your child before age 8. (Children are often ready by age 4.)
  5. Infant water programs should teach water “fun,” not “swimming.” Children cannot be made “water safe” before age 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to organized group swimming lessons under 1 year of age.
  6. Infant programs that encourage submersion of the head for more than a few seconds should be avoided because some babies swallow enough pool water to cause seizures and brain damage.
  7. Caution children of all ages to check the depth of the water before diving in and to avoid any diving in the shallow end of a pool.
  8. Caution children not to overbreathe as a way to stay underwater longer. This practice can lead to passing out underwater.
  9. Teach even the accomplished swimmer to never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
  10. If you own a pool or hot tub AND your young child is ever missing, always look there first.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-04
Last reviewed: 2011-06-06 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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