Drowning occurs when a diver has become unresponsive (unconscious, or unable to respond or act coherently) and has stopped breathing while submerged underwater. Possible contributing factors are ingesting water, extreme fatigue, entanglement, lung overpressurization, panic, inefficient breathing, throat blockage, exhaustion, heart stoppage, and unconsciousness.
If the diver is unresponsive underwater, follow these steps.
- Follow ascent procedures and bring the diver to the surface, where you immediately establish positive buoyancy.
- If the mouthpiece is in the mouth, try to keep it there. If not, do not worry about the mouthpiece.
- Call for help.
- It is preferable to get the diver out the water as soon as possible before initiating rescue breathing. Remove the diver from the water onto a hard surface. If no other more qualified personnel are in attendance, check for airway breathing and circulation.
- If there is no breathing, refer to the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines, presented later in this unit. If there is no pulse/circulation, initiate CPR.
If, after a near drowning, the diver is breathing, administer 100% oxygen. Monitor the airway breathing and circulation until medical personnel are in attendance. Keep the diver warm and as calm as possible. If there is a more qualified person attending to the diver/patient, then assist where necessary.
The patient may become unconscious or experience difficulty with breathing, confusion, lowered alertness, disorientation, unclear thinking, visual problems, paralysis, and chest pain. Make a note of these. Secure all dive equipment for reference and future investigation.