CPR for Drowning Victims: Lifesaving Techniques

If you've ever been snorkeling in the ocean, boating with friends, or even just hanging out in a pool, then you know that drowning can happen anywhere. The result of a tragic accident or a life-threatening event, drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in adults and children alike. Drowning victims need immediate attention from first responders and bystanders alike to help them breathe again. Thankfully, there are simple steps everyone can take to ensure the victim gets proper care before arriving at an emergency room:

Water Temperature

The first step in learning how to save someone who has drowned is knowing what the water temperature is. If it's too cold, your body will not be able to generate the heat necessary to keep you alive. You'll freeze and become hypothermic, which means that your heart rate slows down as well as other functions in your body like breathing and thinking clearly. This can make it difficult or impossible for you to swim out of danger quickly enough before becoming trapped there yourself--and even if you do manage this feat, because of all those effects on your brain function we mentioned above (i.e., not being able to think clearly), there's no guarantee that any given person will know exactly what needs doing next once they've escaped from drowning!

On top of all those problems caused by being trapped underwater longer than necessary (or even just getting stuck there at all), hypothermia also makes it harder for someone trying their best at CPR: If they're trying too hard while shivering uncontrollably due to low temperatures around them then chances are good these efforts won't succeed either!


  • Position the victim on his or her back.
  • Keep the head and neck in a neutral position. Do not put anything under their head, as this can cause further injury.
  • Avoid moving the victim to a different location unless it's absolutely necessary. If you must move them, make sure that someone else is with you and ready to help if needed (e.g. if they need CPR).

Rescue Breathing

Rescue breathing is performed by administering a series of breaths to a drowning victim. The amount of air needed depends on the age and size of the person, but it's generally between one and two full breaths per minute.

If you find yourself performing rescue breathing on someone who isn't breathing or doesn't have a pulse, use this technique:

  • Open their mouth and lift their tongue up with your thumb so that you can see their throat (you may need to use some force). This will help ensure that you are able to breathe into their lungs properly.
  • Check for any obstructions in their airway by looking down at them from above while they're lying flat on their back (do not tilt them). If there are no obstructions visible just below where your finger would touch when pressing against his/her chest wall (about 4-6 inches away), then proceed directly below here without stopping first before continuing with steps 3 through 5 below

Chest Compressions

If you are alone and someone has been submerged in water, shout for help and then begin chest compressions. If there is no pulse, initiate CPR.

  • Chest compressions: Chest compressions be at least 2 inches deep (about the width of two fingers). Compressions should be delivered at a rate of 100 per minute; if you're alone, shout "help" every 30 seconds or so as you perform them to keep track of time. If another person is present, ask him or her to call 911 as soon as possible--you'll want someone else on hand once medical professionals arrive on the scene!
  • Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation: This step isn't necessary unless your drowning victim has stopped breathing or no longer has any signs of life (like movement).

Airway Obstruction

Airway obstruction can occur in drowning victims. If you suspect an airway obstruction, check for it and clear it if necessary. If the victim is unconscious, pinch their nose and give 2 breaths; if they are conscious, give 5 breaths. If they still aren't breathing on their own after this step and aren't responding to your voice or touch (shaking), start chest compressions immediately--and don't stop until emergency medical personnel arrive!

In water there is a risk of aspiration: always make sure the victim is exhaling during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation attempts. Gauge oxygen levels by monitoring breathing patterns; if you are alone and need to move the victim out of the water (for example), give 10 breaths before moving them so that they won't lose too much oxygen while being moved

Drowning can kill in minutes and CPR can save lives

It takes less than one minute for a person to drown. The body needs oxygen to survive, and when it runs out of oxygen, it starts shutting down organs one by one until they stop working altogether. When this happens, you'll only have minutes to get someone to safety before they die from drowning or hypothermia--or even heart attack or stroke if they've been struggling for too long without air.

The signs of drowning are easy enough to spot: someone whose face is submerged under water and isn't moving; someone who has been coughing up water after being pulled out of the water; or someone who is unconscious due to lack of oxygen in their brain cells (this causes them not be able to breathe on their own). But sometimes people don't realize that what looks like drowning could actually be something else entirely--like a heart attack or stroke--and vice versa! So how do you know if someone needs CPR?

Well first off: always call 911 immediately if there's any chance at all that someone might need help breathing again after being submerged under water (or another liquid) for more than five minutes without coming up for air at least once during those five minutes! Second: look out for these telltale signs:


Drowning is a leading cause of death in the United States. The good news is that you can save lives by knowing how to perform CPR on drowning victims.

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