What is near-drowning?

Fact Checked

Near-drowning occurs if an individual closely died due to suffocation under water. This is the last phase before fatal drowning occurs which results to death. A victim still requires medical care to prevent any health-related complications. Those who are at risk include young children but can occur to anyone at any age.

Near-drowning occurs if the individual could not breathe under water for a long period of time. During an episode, the body is deprived of oxygen to a point where the main body systems start to shut down due to the lack of oxygen flow. In some instances, this can occur in just seconds.


Most cases of near-drowning are linked to accidents that occur close to or in the water. The usual causes include:

Near-drowning occurs if the individual could not breathe under water for a long period of time.
  • Panic in the water
  • Inability to swim
  • Falling into thin ice
  • Unattended children near bodies of water
  • Unattended infants in bath tubs even for a short period
  • Consumption of alcohol while on a boat or swimming
  • Suicide attempt
  • Heart attack, concussion or seizure while in the water

What are the indications of near-drowning?

If an individual nearly drowned, he/she might be unresponsive. The other symptoms include:


Always bear in mind that near-drowning often occurs if there is no lifeguard or medical professional present. A rescue can be attempted from water, but only if it is safe to do so. Some measures in helping an individual who is drowning include the following:

  • Utilize safety objects such as throw ropes and life rings to help the victim if still conscious.
  • An unconscious individual should be rescued only if you have capable swimming skills to safety do so.
  • Perform rescue breathing right away if the individual ceases to breathe. The chest compressions are vital as well since they promote increase oxygen flow via the blood to prevent any fatal complications.
  • Be careful when handling the individual and performing CPR if there is a possibility of a neck or spinal injury. Stabilize the neck by holding the head and neck manually in place or placing towels around the neck for support.
  • If the individual drowned in cold water, remove wet clothes and cover the individual with warm blankets to prevent hypothermia.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on near-drowning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this water-related emergency, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.

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