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Near-Drowning Injuries


Near-drowning injuries occur when a person has been unable to breathe after being under water. Liquid enters the lungs and prevents the person from getting enough oxygen. Alcohol or drug use while boating or swimming increase the risk of a near-drowning injury. Medical problems such as seizures, muscle cramps, or hypoglycemia while swimming may also increase risk.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


At first, the patient may need to rest in bed. He may breathe easier if he rests with the head of the bed raised. He may also breathe easier if he rests his head on 3 or 4 pillows. If he has trouble breathing, call his healthcare provider right away. When his breathing has improved, he may get out of bed.

Neurologic signs:

Healthcare providers will check the patient's eyes, memory, and how easily he wakes up. The patient's hand grasp and balance may also be tested. This helps healthcare providers know how the patient's brain is working. The patient may need to have his neurologic signs checked often.

Vital signs:

The patient's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature will be checked regularly by healthcare providers. They will also ask about the patient's pain. These vital signs give healthcare providers information about the patient's current health.


  • Antibiotics may be given to help treat or prevent a lung infection.
  • Glucose may be given to raise blood sugar.


  • Arterial blood gases (ABG) show oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Blood is taken from a vein in the wrist, arm, or groin.
  • A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen in the patient's blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on his foot, toe, hand, finger, or earlobe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if the patient's oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
  • Blood and urine tests can get information about the person's overall health.
  • An EEG , or electroencephalogram, shows the electrical activity of the brain. Small pads or metal discs are put on the head. Each has a wire that is hooked to a machine. This machine prints a paper tracing of brain wave activity from different parts of the brain.
  • A chest x-ray may show lung problems, such as pneumonia, collapsed lungs, or ARDS.
  • A CT scan may show brain edema. The person may be given a dye before the scan. Tell the healthcare provider if the person has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.


  • Oxygen may be given if the person's blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. He may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • A ventilator is a machine that provides oxygen and breathes for the patient when he cannot breathe well on his own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into his mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. He may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into his windpipe.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to get more oxygen into the body. The oxygen is given under pressure to get it into the tissues and blood. The patient may be put into a chamber called a hyperbaric or pressure chamber. He will be able to see his healthcare providers and talk with them through a speaker. The patient may need to have this therapy more than once.


Endotracheal intubation and other procedures may cause bleeding and infection. Without treatment, near-drowning injuries may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, brain edema, and kidney failure. Near-drowning injuries can also lead to seizures. These problems may become life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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 Near-Drowning Injuries (Inpatient Care)

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