Know Your Limits

Drowning is death by suffocation that occurs after being submerged in water.  Near drowning is survival or temporary survival that lasts longer than the 24-hour period after submersion.  For every drowning, there are four near drownings.
Most drownings occur within a short distance of safety and can be prevented.  There are different types of drowning.  Dry drowning occurs 10-15% of the time and is caused when a water-induced spasm of the air passage prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs.  Wet drowning results from inhaling large amounts of water into the lungs.  This usually occurs after the spasms have subsided and water passes into the lungs.
Different types of water will cause different complications in near drownings.  Freshwater drowning differs from saltwater drowning in terms of the mechanism for causing suffocation.  Only a small amount of either kind of water is needed to damage the lungs and interfere with the body’s ability to breathe.  If fresh water is inhaled, it passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and destroys red blood cells.  If salt water is inhaled, the salt causes fluid from the body to enter the lung tissue, displacing the air.
In elders, drowning is usually the result of an underlying illness such as cardiac compromise or stroke.  Exhaustion is also a factor in drownings, especially when one encounters a current.  When one is not accustomed to swimming in a salty water environment with currents and waves, anxiety creates panic that may lead to inhalation of water and drowning can occur.  With children, drownings typically occur when they are left unsupervised.
Prevention is the key.  When on or in the water, make ready a flotation device for swimmers who may possibly encounter trouble.  Life jackets should be worn at all times when on the water.  Snorkelling vests and certified flotation devices listed for snorkelling purposes should be used.  A wetsuit is sometimes enough to give a person more buoyancy and a bit of warm comfort, too.  When encountering a drowning casualty, call for assistance immediately.  CPR is critical to the casualty’s survival.  For the layperson, basic CPR skills are as easy as providing two breaths followed by 30 chest compressions repeated until more advanced help arrives.  Certified FR or Red Cross Instructors can teach this basic life-saving manoeuvre in a couple of hours.  It’s worth the time to save a life.
Safe boating always,
Mark Wollner