How To Revive A Drowning Victim?

Reviving a drowning victim requires prompt and effective action to restore their breathing and circulation through drowning CPR. CPR for drowning victims involves specific techniques that differ from standard CPR, emphasizing the importance of rescue breaths to address respiratory issues and maintain blood flow, particularly to the brain. CPR training is crucial for drowning victims, as it equips individuals with the skills needed to revive a person and maintain oxygen supply to the brain and organs. Drowning is a life-threatening emergency, and every second counts. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to revive a drowning victim using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR):

CPR For Drowning

1. Assess the Scene

Safety First: Before attempting to rescue a drowning victim, ensure that the scene is safe for both you and the victim. Check for hazards such as strong currents, deep water, or dangerous animals. Always prioritize your safety to avoid becoming a victim yourself.

Environmental Awareness: Be aware of environmental conditions such as changing tides, waves, or weather that could impact the safety of the rescue. Assess the surroundings for any immediate dangers or obstacles that could complicate the rescue.

2. Check Responsiveness

Initial Check: Gently tap or shake the victim and shout loudly, “Are you okay?” Check for any signs of movement, groaning, or eye-opening. If there is no response, the victim is unresponsive and needs immediate help.

Assessing Consciousness: Look for any signs of life, such as blinking or weak movements. An unresponsive victim requires urgent intervention. If the victim is unconscious but breathing, place them in the recovery position to keep their airway open while you seek help.

3. Call for Help

Emergency Contact: If there is someone nearby, instruct them to call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Provide clear and concise information about the situation, including the victim’s condition and location.

Solo Rescuers: If you are alone, perform CPR for about 2 minutes (five cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths) before calling for help. Use a speakerphone if possible to continue CPR while communicating with emergency services.

Gathering Resources: Ask bystanders to assist by bringing any available first aid equipment or AED (Automated External Defibrillator) to the scene. Delegate tasks to ensure a swift and organized response.

4. Position the Drowning Victim

Safe Relocation: Carefully move the victim onto their back on a firm surface. If the victim is still in the water, ensure you have them in a stable, shallow area before proceeding. Use a floatation device if available to help support the victim while moving them.

Handling with Care: Avoid twisting or jerking the victim’s body. Support the head and neck to prevent further injury. If there is a risk of spinal injury, move the victim with extreme caution, keeping their body as straight as possible.

5. Open the Airway

Airway Management: Tilt the victim’s head back slightly and lift their chin to open the airway. This helps to prevent the tongue from blocking the airway. If you suspect a spinal injury, use the jaw-thrust maneuver to open the airway without moving the neck.

Breathing Check: Look, listen, and feel for breathing for no more than 10 seconds. Place your ear close to the victim's mouth and nose, and watch for chest movement. If there is no breathing or only gasping, the victim needs CPR immediately.

6. Start Chest Compressions

Hand Placement: Place the heel of one hand in the center of the victim’s chest, just below the nipple line. Place your other hand on top of the first hand, interlocking your fingers. Ensure your elbows are locked and your shoulders are directly over your hands.

Compression Technique: Position yourself with your shoulders directly over your hands, and use your body weight to compress the chest. Avoid leaning on the victim’s chest between compressions to allow full recoil. Note that compression-only CPR should not be used for drowning victims, as rescue breaths are essential for successful resuscitation in cases of cardiac arrest secondary to hypoxia.

Compression Rate: Perform chest compressions at a rate of about 100-120 compressions per minute. Use a rhythm such as the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees to maintain the correct pace.

Compression Depth: Compress the chest to a depth of at least 2 inches (5 centimeters). Effective compressions are crucial for circulating blood to vital organs. Ensure compressions are performed smoothly and consistently.

7. Give Rescue Breaths

Rescue Breathing: After 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths. Tilt the victim’s head back and lift the chin to open the airway. It is crucial to use mouth-to-mouth CPR specifically for drowning victims, as compression-only CPR may be ineffective in such scenarios. Make sure to maintain an airtight seal over the victim’s mouth and nose.

Seal the Airway: Pinch the victim’s nose closed and cover their mouth with yours, creating an airtight seal. Ensure no air escapes during breaths.

Breath Delivery: Give a breath that lasts about 1 second and makes the chest visibly rise. Watch the chest fall before giving the second breath. Repeat this process for a total of two rescue breaths.

Airway Reassessment: If the chest does not rise, recheck the airway for blockages and ensure a proper seal before attempting breaths again. Clear any visible obstructions in the mouth if necessary.

8. Continue CPR

CPR Cycles: Repeat cycles of 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths. Continuously monitor the victim for any signs of improvement, such as spontaneous breathing or movement. Most drowning victims will have sustained cardiac arrest secondary to hypoxia, and in these cases, compression-only CPR is likely to be ineffective.

Persistence: Continue CPR until the victim shows signs of life (such as breathing), emergency personnel arrive, or you are too exhausted to continue. Regularly check the victim’s pulse and breathing, but do not interrupt CPR for more than 10 seconds.

Assistance: If additional help arrives, take turns performing CPR to avoid fatigue. Ensure smooth transitions to maintain continuous compressions.

9. Use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) (if available)

AED Utilization: If an AED is available, follow its instructions for use. Some AEDs may be equipped to provide shocks if a heart rhythm that responds to defibrillation is detected.

AED Placement: Place AED pads on the victim’s bare chest as instructed. Ensure one pad is placed on the upper right side of the chest and the other on the lower left side.

Shock Administration: If the AED advises a shock, ensure no one is touching the victim and deliver the shock. Continue CPR immediately after the shock if prompted. Follow the AED’s instructions for further actions.


Reviving a drowning victim requires immediate and sustained CPR to maximize the chances of survival. Drowning occurs quickly and silently, as suffocation is caused by the entry of liquid into the airways of the mouth and nose while in or below water. Knowing how to perform CPR specifically for drowning victims, including the emphasis on rescue breaths, is essential. Recognizing a drowning person and understanding the steps to perform CPR for a drowning victim are crucial. Always prioritize your safety and call for professional medical help as soon as possible. Effective collaboration and prompt action can save lives in these critical situations. Stay informed and trained in CPR techniques to be prepared for emergencies.

CPR + First Aid Certification

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