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The injuries suffered result from breath holding (“dry drowning”), the aspiration of water into the lungs (“wet drowning”), and/or hypothermia.
Common symptoms of near drowning result from oxygen deprivation, retention of carbon dioxide, or direct damage to the lungs by water. These include cough, dyspnea, coma, and seizures. Additional complications of prolonged immersion may include aspiration pneumonitis, noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, electrolyte disorders, hemolysis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and arrhythmias.
In unconscious patients rescued from water, the airway is secured, ventilation is provided, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation is begun. Oxygen, cardiac, and blood pressure monitoring, rewarming techniques, and other forms of support are provided (e.g., anticonvulsants are given for seizures; electrolyte and acid-base disorders are corrected).
Most patients who are rapidly resuscitated from a dry drowning episode recover fully. The recovery of near drowning victims who have inhaled water into the lungs depends on the underlying health of the victim, the duration of immersion, and the speed and efficiency with which oxygenation, ventilation, and perfusion are restored.