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(Near-Drowning; Submersion Incident)


Risk Factors

Risk factors that increase your chances of drowning include:
Children are most often the victims of drowning. The following factors increase a child’s risk of drowning:
  • Not knowing how to swim
  • Having an unfenced pool or spa in the home
  • Among children less than one year old, the most common risk factor for drowning is being left in a bathtub unattended, even for a few minutes


A drowning injury will be diagnosed based on the events and the person's symptoms. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be needed of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your doctor may need to test your body's oxygen levels. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests
  • Oximetry
Brain Damage from Lack of Oxygen
Brain Damage Oxygen
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


To help reduce chances that that you or someone you know will drown, take the following steps:
  • Never leave children alone with any body of water such as a pool, bathtub, or spa. Drowning can occur within moments.
  • Have your child take swimming lessons. Remember that even a child who knows how to swim is still at risk for drowning and will need constant supervision.
  • A fence or barrier should completely enclose your pool or spa. All gates or doors leading from the house to the pool area should have a self-closing, self-latching gate. It should be above the reach of toddlers and young children. You may want to get a pool alarm or rigid pool cover in addition to the fence and gates.
  • If you use a lightweight, floating pool cover, be extra alert to the potential for drowning accidents. These covers do not keep people from falling in. No one should ever crawl or walk on them.
  • Remove any obstacles to allow a full view of the pool or spa from the house.
  • Body parts and hair can be trapped in pool drains. Be sure that the pool has drain covers or a filter system to release the suction.
  • Ensure careful supervision of all guests if alcoholic beverages are served at a spa or pool.
  • When swimming in open water, choose an area where there is a lifeguard.
  • Always wear life vests when boating.
  • There is a risk of drowning during the wintertime. Warn children and others about the danger of walking or skating on thin ice.
  • Do not allow anyone of any age to swim alone. A supervising adult should be within arm's length of infants and toddlers who are swimming. The adult should know how to swim, be able to rescue someone, and do CPR.


American Red Cross

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics


Canadian Paediatric Society

Canadian Red Cross


Driscoll TR, Harrison JA, et al. Review of the role of alcohol in drowning associated with recreational aquatic activity. Inj Prev. 2004;10(2):107-113.

Drowning and near-drowning in children and adolescents: a succinct review for emergency physicians and nurses. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2005;21(9):617-619.

Harries M. Near drowning. BMJ. 2003;327(7427):1336-1338.

Near-drowning. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 8, 2013. Accessed September 23, 2014.

Salomez F, Vincent JL. Drowning: a review of epidemiology, pathophysiology, treatment, and prevention. Resuscitation. 2004;63(3):261-268.

Sibert J, John N, et al. Drowning of babies in bath seats: do they provide false reassurance? Child Care Health Dev. 2005;31(3):255-259.

Szpilman D, Bierens JJ, et al. Drowning. N Engl J Med. 2012 ; 366(22):2102-2110.

5/28/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Policy statement—prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2010 May 24. [Epub ahead of print]


Revision Information

Review Date: 08/2014
  • Update Date: 09/23/2014