HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDE – Drowning: Learn to save that life

Drowning is by no means a rare accident that occurs to people especially in their prime life. Drowning frequently occurs either when adolescents and young adult encounter misadventures while swimming at the beaches or during boat mishaps while crossing rivers and lakes. However, when the circumstances surrounding each drowning accidents are analysed, it is usually found that with simple precautionary measures, most of the accidents can be prevented. Drowning occurs not usually because the victims cannot swim. In fact, in many instances, the victim may even be good swimmers.

There is a Nigerian saying that “It is the battle wounds that usually kill the great warrior, just as it is drowning that kills the great swimmers.” The following tips will certainly reduce the incidence of drowning if we always remember to abide by them:

(a) In the home, as much as possible do not leave large containers of water uncovered and at places where toddlers can get at them. The usual story of children drowning at home is that the parents have conserved water either in big bowels or in the bath, and when they were not looking, the toddler (who usually enjoys playing with water had crawled or walked to place and got himself drowned. Therefore if you have to preserve water in large containers, lock them up in bathroom or kitchen.

(b) When boarding canoes, don’t enter if is already full. Over-loading canoes and boats is commonest cause of drowning among picnickers.

(c) If you don’t know how to swim don’t play near water and even if you are a good swimmer, obey the safety rules.

(d) At the swimming pool, don’t attempt high diving if you are not a good diver or if the swimming pool is shallow.

(e) Don’t swim in muddy water and keep away from beaches when the sea is rough.

(f) Do not attempt to rescue a distressed. Swimmer unless you have the proper training for doing so. Too many double deaths have occurred because of good intension and inadequate skills.

When drowning occurs what can you do?

People get drowned by ingesting and inhaling large volumes of water usually after struggling to hold their breaths for a minute or two. The water then fills the stomach of lungs and oxygen which the body needs urgently fails to get to the blood and respiration cases, followed soon afterwards by cessation of heart beats. It is therefore not the presence of water in the stomach or in the lungs that kills in drowning by hypoxia inadequate oxygen reaching the blood.

Whenever a recently drowned person is pulled ashore, taking the following steps may save his life:

1.         Place the person in a semi-prone position and press the abdomen from below upwards. This removes some of the waters in the stomach and lungs and prepares the ground for the next step.

2.         After getting as much water out of lungs and stomach start artificial respirations immediately taking the following steps:

a.         Clear the victim’s mouth and throat of any obstructions.

b.         Tilt the head back as far as possible with the chin up and the neck stretched out.

c.         Insert your thumb between the victim’s teeth to pull his lower jaw open. Keep the head still pushed back.

d.         Push the nostril shut.

e.         Open your mouth, take a deep breath, and, placing your mouth, blow forcefully. Repeat every 3 to 4 seconds.

If there had been no cardiac arrest, the above steps are all you need to take and continue

Until the Victim, though still unconscious, starts to breath by himself. When this happens,

allow him to continue breathing by himself, wrap him up in dry warm clothing and send him

to the hospital. If there had been cardiac arrest as manifested by the absence of pulse or

heartbeat, then external cardiac massage must be combined with the artificial respiration.


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