CPR FOR DROWNING VICTIMS
CPR stands for Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, a life-saving technique used to restore oxygenated blood flow to the vital organs of the body of a person who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating.
About 400 people drown annually in the UK. A fatal drowning incident is one too many. Most of these tragic incidents occur in canals, rivers, swimming pools, baths and in the least the sea. Young children and vulnerable adults are more susceptible to drowning in baths. Let us learn some important points about how to revive drowning victims if ever we are faced with that reality. These are helpful tips for everyone especially parents, teachers, and people who work with children and vulnerable adults; and does not constitute medical advice, and neither does it replace seeking immediate medical assistance for the drowning victim.
It is important to note that drowning causes the lungs to be filled with water rather than oxygen which in turn starves the heart and vital organs of oxygenated blood. It is worth noting that deprivation of oxygen to the brain (cerebral hypoxia) is extremely dangerous because prolonged cerebral hypoxia induces neuronal cell apoptosis (death) resulting in hypoxic brain injury and ultimately death. The brain requires oxygen to utilise glucose, its major energy source; thus, if the brain is deprived of oxygen, the brain is unable to utilise glucose for its energy sources to perform its vital functions. If the brain is deprived of oxygen a loss of consciousness can occur within 15 seconds and the onset of brain damage can occur at about the 1 minute to 4 minutes mark. At 10 minutes, even if the brain remains alive, lasting brain damage or a coma are almost inevitable. So, in these emergency situations, time is truly of the essence if the person’s life can be saved.
It is crucial not to panic and to ensure that you do not yourself become a drowning victim whilst trying to help someone who is drowning because you will then not be able to assist. If you cannot swim well or at all, do not attempt entering the water to rescue the victim; call for help immediately and dial 999 for paramedics. Always remember that the biggest risk with drowning victims is the lack of oxygen in the organs and the body, so resuscitation efforts must firstly focus on this and on restoring oxygen back to the body and the organs.
Once the victim is out of the water, or in some instances, whilst still in the water it is vital to act quickly to attempt to restore oxygen to the brain, and vital organs in order to attempt to prevent irreversible brain and organ damage, and death. Lay the victim on their back and try to rouse them by shaking them and/or pinching their earlobe. They may remain unresponsive. Tilt their head to the side to allow water in their lungs to drain out of their mouth and nose. Then return their head to the centre position with their head tilted back to open their airways. Then perform mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths before attempting chest compression thus:
- With them lying on their back and their head tilted backwards, perform a breath check by leaning over them and placing your cheek very close to their mouth to feel for breath on your cheek whilst observing their chest to check for a breathing rise and fall movement, and listen keenly for sounds of breath;
- Perform 5 mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths on them by pinching their nose and breathing into their mouths whilst keeping their heads tilted backward. Ensure to make as much a good seal as possible with your mouth over their; taking deep breaths and breathing these into their mouth repeating in a succession of 4 breaths after the first. Ensure that each breath you breath into their mouth lasts for 1 second. These will deliver crucial oxygen into the victim’s lungs;
- Now perform CPR (chest compressions) on the victim whilst they remain lying on their back by using both your hands, placing one over the other on the centre of their chest keeping your arms straight and pushing down firmly on their chest about 5cm making sure to engage 2 pushes per second. Do this for 1 minute (120 compressions per 60 seconds).
- Then do 30 chest compressions and 2 mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths and repeat until paramedics or medical assistance arrives. They may remain unresponsive, in which case, you continue but if they start breathing normally, then you do the next step;
- Roll the person into the recovery position lying them on their side, and with their top leg and arm bent which will help prop them upwards. Keep their head tilted backwards to keep the airways unobstructed and then cover them with a warm blanket to restore body temperature and homeostasis.
- Talk to them to reassure them and to help them maintain consciousness.
- If the victim has suffered a cardiac arrest, a defibrillator can be used to restore the heart rhythm and it will be best for paramedics to perform this if the helper has no clinical or medical training.
© 2020 The JusticeAngels Team