Time is of the essence when it comes to saving a child from drowning. With a lack of oxygen being delivered to the brain it can take a few minutes before severe damage occurs.
Drowning can occur within 20 seconds and if the child’s heart has stopped for eight to ten minutes, the chance of survival is greatly reduced. The following CPR procedure is for children between the age of 12 months and 8 years old.
It is essential to monitor a child at all times when they are in water. A drowning child may not be able to call for help, so it’s best to be aware of the signs:
- The child is floating with their face down in the water
- The child’s head is tilted back and their mouth is open
- The child is gasping for air
- The child is trying to swim in a particular direction and is not making any progress
Do not put yourself at risk when trying to rescue the child. Rather use a flotation device, such as a pool noodle or a life jacket. Once the child is safely out the water you can begin to administer CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and is an emergency procedure. This involves a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
How to administer CPR
Check for a response
Tap the child on the shoulder to see if they are responsive and ask them loudly if they are ok. If they do not respond, call the emergency number 999 immediately or ask someone else to.
Check if the child is breathing
Watch their chest for any movement or you can place your ear over their mouth to feel and listen for breathing. If the child is not breathing and unconscious, check for a pulse, holding it for 10 seconds. If there is no pulse, begin with the CPR.
Start the CPR process by laying the child down on a flat, firm surface. Place the heel of your hand over the lower third area of their breastbone and give the child 30 quick chest compressions. You must press hard enough so that the chest moves down 5 centimetres. This will get the blood flowing to the vital organs and the brain.
Once you have completed the first 30 chest compressions, you’ll need to open the airway. Place one hand on their forehead, two fingers under the tip of the chin and gently tilt the neck back.
Now pinch the nose and place your mouth over their mouth and give two slow breaths, making sure the chest rises with each breath.
Keep repeating the 30 compressions and 2 long breaths till the child is able to breathe or the ambulance arrives.
It is very common for the child to start vomiting or to have difficulty breathing. To help keep the airway open, place the child in the recovery position.
Kneel down beside the person.
- Place their arm that’s closest to you out at a right angle to their body.
- Place the arm furthest from you across their chest.
- Bend the leg furthest from you, keeping the other leg straight.
- Support their head and neck and roll the person towards you onto their side.
- Keep the top leg bent at the knee and touching the ground.
- Keep the persons mouth facing downward so that the fluid can drain from the patient’s airway and the chin tilted well up to keep the epiglottis opened. The arms and legs are locked into position so as to stabilize the position of the patient.
When a child dies from complications after a near-drowning experience, it can occur between one to 24 hours after the rescue. If the child shows any of the following signs, you will need to call your doctor immediately:
- There is persistent coughing
- The child is struggling to breath
- The child shows abnormal tiredness
- There is a decrease in the child’s activity
- The child shows mental confusion
- The child’s skin and lips are blue
- The child loses consciousness
- The child has a loss of bladder or bowel control.
There have been studies that indicate if another person presses down gently above the navel area immediately after the chest is pressed down, the recovery rate can be greater. This must be done in rhythm.
Do not attempt to remove water from the child’s lungs. There is no evidence that water acts as an obstructive foreign body and this will only waste time. This can cause damage and will delay CPR and support of airway and ventilation.