Mighty Blog

Drowning: What to look for, what to do and ways to prevent it

Children’s Minnesota pediatric surgeon Dr. Nathan Kreykes, Trauma Medical Director, talks about drownings: What to look for, and what to do if you see one of these tragic accidents.

Children’s sees more than twenty cases of drowning or near drowning yearly. While uncommon overall, unfortunately, drownings do happen and can happen to children, teens or adults. This is why it’s important to keep things like, what to do, what to look for and how to prevent drownings top-of-mind when near water.

“In the United States, drowning remains the second leading cause of death from unintentional injuries in children aged 1-14,” said Dr Kreykes”. Tragically, 90 percent of victims are within ten yards of safety when they drown. Children should receive proper swim training, wear approved flotation devices and be restricted from water when not supervised.”

little girl swimming

One major misconception with drownings are that it’s a noisy, splashing call for help like we’ve all seen in the movies. However, in reality, drowning is quiet and sometimes unnoticeable which is why it’s important to know what to look for while you supervise your children at the lake or pool.

  • Children will be hyperventilating or gasping for air not yelling or calling out for help
  • The child’s head will be low in the water and their mouth at water level. Their head may be tilted back with their mouth open.
  • The child may be trying to swim in a particular direction but not make any headway, have difficulty using their legs or try to roll over onto their back.

What to do if a child is drowning:

Pulling a child out of a near drowning is just the first step to help them get the care they need.

  • First, you need to remove the child from the water entirely.
  • Open the child’s airway then look, listen and feel for signs of breathing.
  • If the child does not appear to be breathing, begin CPR and continue until medical professionals can take over.
  • After the child is responsive, it’s still important to bring a child to see a physician. Symptoms can persist up to 24 hours after submersion, and it never hurts to check in with a medical provider after a water event.

Ways to prevent:

The best way to treat a drowning is to prevent it entirely. Dr. Natalie Rigelman-Hedberg, a pediatrician Metro Pediatrics, shared five essential tips to keep kids safe near water:

  1. Get swimming lessons: there are many local options to get swimming lessons for your child, including American Red Cross, YMCA and Water and Ice Safety (WISE) program
  2. Always have attentive adult supervision
  3. Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets
  4. Enforce pool safety rules
  5. Learn CPR and use it when necessary

Children’s Minnesota is a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center

Since being verified by the American College of Surgeons in 2013 as a level I pediatric trauma center, Children’s Minnesota has become the busiest Level I pediatric trauma center in the region. Children’s Minnesota is a free-standing children’s hospital with 24/7 in-house attending pediatric surgeons, trauma trained advanced practice providers, pediatric intensivists, pediatric emergency physicians and trauma nurses immediately available, Children’s provides the best timely care to injured children.

Kaitlyn Kamleiter