Drowning causes breathing impairment as a result of submersion or immersion in a liquid. Drowning begins when a casualty is unable to breathe because the nose, mouth and air passages are submerged below the surface of a liquid. Any incident involving submersion when there is no problem with breathing is not defined as drowning but as a rescue

A casualty rescued from a drowning incident must be assessed using the primary survey to establish whether or not CPR is required. If he is unconscious and not breathing, five initial rescue breaths should be given before you start chest compressions, then continue with CPR. You should always call ∗9999 for emergency services.


  • Take care to avoid putting yourself in danger when rescuing a person from water.
  • If the liquid is a chemical or a waste liquid, be aware that there may be toxic fumes in the atmosphere.
  • Many casualties who drown may regurgitate stomach contents so be prepared to roll him onto his side to clear his airway.
  • If you are a trained rescuer and it is safe to do so, start rescue breaths while removing the casualty from the liquid.
  • Call ∗9999 for emergency help even if he appears to recover immediately after rescue.
  1. When the casualty is rescued from the liquid start the primary survey. Check his response, open his airway and check for breathing. Ask someone to call ∗9999 for emergency help.
  2. If he is unconscious and not breathing, give FIVE initial rescue breaths.
  3. Follow this with 30 chest compressions, then TWO rescue breaths. Continue CPR at a rate of 30:2 until help arrives, the casualty shows signs of regaining consciousness (coughing, opening his eyes, speaking, or moving purposefully AND starts breathing) or you are too exhausted to continue.
  4. If you are on your own, give CPR for one minute before you call ∗9999 for emergency help.
  5. If the casualty starts to breathe, treat him for hypothermia by covering him with warm clothes and blankets. If he recovers completely, replace his wet clothes with dry ones if possible and cover him with warm clothes and blankets. Monitor and record vital signs—breathing, pulse and level of response until help arrives.
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