Submersion Injuries In Children


  • Submersion (sub-MER-zhun) injuries are conditions caused by not being able to breathe under any liquid substance, such as water. Liquids entering the lungs may prevent your child from getting enough air and the brain from getting enough oxygen. Water rescue is when your child remains alert after a submersion or immersion injury. Your child may have temporary (short-term) symptoms like coughing that clears up quickly. Near-drowning is when your child survives but has more serious symptoms after an immersion or submersion injury. Drowning is caused by a long period of immersion or submersion that leads to death.

  • Your child may have trouble breathing. He may be vomiting (throwing up) or confused, and may lose consciousness. Complications may include pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), hypothermia and brain damage. A complete physical examination will be done by his caregiver. Tests, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and chest x-ray may be used to check for other problems. Treatment may include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), oxygen, medicines for infection and pain, and endotracheal tube insertion. Early CPR may increase the chances of your child surviving. Treating submersion injuries as soon as possible may decrease possible complications. Careful attention to basic water safety practice and having adequate supervision may prevent many of the drowning deaths.


Your child's medicines are:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your child's stomach and control vomiting (throwing up).

  • Pain medicine: Your child may need medicine to take away or decrease pain. Know how often your child should get the medicine and how much. Watch for signs of pain in your child. Tell caregivers if his pain continues or gets worse. To prevent falls, stay with your child to help him get out of bed.

  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.

Ask for more information about where and when to take your child for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services for your child, ask for information.

How can submersion injuries be prevented?

Submersion injuries may be prevented by doing any of the following:

  • Teenage alcohol and drug use should be avoided while doing water activities.

  • Private pools should be fenced in all four sides to block off the pool totally.

  • Children specially those with seizures or autism should never be left unattended when in or close to water.

  • Pool owners, parents and child carers should have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training.

  • Swimming lessons for children can improve swimming abilities and water rescue.

  • Use of life jackets is recommended for all children when swimming, boating or doing water activities.

  • When swimming in open water, stay close to where life guards are visible.

For more information:

For more information regarding submersion injuries and drowning, please contact the following:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:


  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has chills, cough or feels weak and achy.

  • You have questions or concern regarding your child's medicines and care of his condition.


  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has a sudden seizure (convulsion).

  • Your child has trouble breathing all of a sudden.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Submersion Injuries In Children (Discharge Care)