Emergency Highlight - Drowning

Drowning is the greatest cause of accidental death for young children in Australia.

Student First Aid - Emergency Highlight - Drowning


1. D - Danger - Check for any danger to you or other students. Only remove student from water if there is no danger to yourself or others.

2. R - Response - Once out of water, ask student’s name and squeeze their shoulders. If no response, take next step.

3. S - Send - Call 000 for help. Ask bystander to bring defibrillator if available.

4. A - Airway - Tilt student’s head to side and sweep two fingers around mouth to clear any water or vomit from nose or mouth. 

5. B - Breathing - Look, listen and feel for breathing for 10 seconds. If no normal breathing, start CPR.

6. C - CPR - 30 chest compressions then 2 breaths in continuous cycles

7. D - Defibrillator - Attach defibrillator as soon as possible and follow voice prompts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is drowning? Drowning is defined as respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid. When a student is panicking underwater they expend a lot of energy, which consumes more oxygen and causes involuntary breaths, typically ingesting more water. Their airway (larynx) spasms and closes as water comes in, often redirecting it to the stomach. If the person loses consciousness, the throat will relax, allowing water to flow into the lungs. In either case, their lungs can’t supply oxygen to the body, which can cause long-term damage and often death.

Why does a drowning person lose consciousness? Within 3 minutes of being underwater, most people lose consciousness. Within 5 minutes underwater, the brain’s oxygen supply begins to drop. A lack of oxygen can cause brain damage. 

What is near-drowning? With early intervention and effective CPR, a person can survive a drowning event but there are usually serious long-term health effects including lung complications and brain damage.

What is active supervision? Active supervision means staying within sight and reach of a student at all times.

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