Near drowning


"Near drowning" means a person almost died from not being able to breathe (suffocating) under water.

If a person has been rescued from a near-drowning situation, quick first aid and medical attention are very important.

Alternative Names

Drowning - near




Symptoms can vary, but may include:

First Aid

When someone is drowning:

If the person's breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing as soon as you can. This often means starting the breathing process while still in the water.

Continue to breathe for the person every few seconds while moving him or her to dry land. Once on land, give CPR if needed. For step-by-step instructions on rescue breathing, see the article on CPR.

Always use caution when moving a person who is drowning. Assume that the person may have a neck or spine injury, and avoid turning or bending their neck. Keep the head and neck very still during CPR and while moving the person. You can tape the head to a backboard or stretcher, or secure the neck by placing rolled towels or other objects around it.

Follow these additional steps:


When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you cannot rescue the drowning person without endangering yourself, call for emergency medical assistance immediately. If you are trained and able to rescue the person, do so and then call for medical help.

All near-drowning patients should be checked by a doctor. Even though the person may revive quickly at the scene, lung complications are common. Fluid and body chemical (electrolyte) imbalances may develop, and other traumatic injuries may be present.



Richards DB, Knaut AL. Drowning. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 143.

Review Date: 1/4/2011
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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