In this section
Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in a liquid.
Near drowning is an obsolete term.
Consider a medical cause for drowning in children who are competent swimmers.
Circumstances leading to the drowning
Key principles of management are maintaining adequate oxygenation, preventing aspiration and stabilising body temperature.
Vomiting is common in drowning victims and aspiration of gastric contents is a major complication. Spontaneously breathing children should initially be placed in the lateral decubitus position.
Hypothermia is a common consequence of drowning.
Remove wet clothes and dry child
Exposure should be minimised
Active warming should occur if core temperature is less than 34C.
Children who are asymptomatic and alert require no investigations.
Further investigations should be guided by the child’s history and clinical condition
Prophylactic antibiotics have no role
Increased respiratory effort
Abnormal lung examination
Persisting altered conscious state
Respiratory compromise requiring assisted ventilation
For emergency advice and paediatric or neonatal ICU transfers, call the Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval (PIPER) Service: 1300 137 650.
Observed for 8 hours from the time of drowning
Normal respiratory examination
No ongoing safety concerns
Referral to social work has been made if deemed appropriate
Adverse prognostic indicators
Last Updated September 2017