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Treatment for Drowning

Drowning is a hypoxic brain issue (requiring supplemental oxygenation administration on scene). The focus on treatment is to reverse hypoxia with A-B-C CPR (not C-A-B). Use rescue breathing and if available, supplemental oxygen. Remove any likely water and vomit from the airway as needed (likely from the stomach).

Do not spend time removing white foam from the upper airway, which is likely from the lungs. Instead, ventilate the patient, essentially ignoring the foam.

Consider protecting the spine only if there is a clear MOI for spine injury. Treat for hypothermia as appropriate (expected). Monitor patients of non-fatal drowning, as the onset of signs of respiratory distress usually begin to appear within six hours.

Continually assess for ‘wet’ lung sounds, productive cough, rapid shallow ventilations, cyanosis, any substernal burning sensations, the inability to take a deep breath, an irregular and/or depressed heart rate, or any decrease in the patients level of responsiveness.

 

These curricula recommendations have been adopted from NOLS Wilderness Medicine and have been edited to conform to the standards
set by Center for Wilderness Safety and the Wilderness Medical Society in accordance with the WMS National Practice Guidelines.

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