Importance of CPR
Many parents take their phones out to the pool so they can call an ambulance in case of emergency. Having a phone handy is important, but with a drowning accident, there is no time to wait. Brain cells begin to die surprisingly quickly after having been deprived of oxygen. After three to five minutes without air, the drowning victim is likely to experience serious brain damage. After 10 minutes, enough brain cells have died that the victim is unlikely to recover. When the patient passes the 15-minute mark without getting oxygen, it is virtually impossible for him or her to recover.
A few patients have survived being submerged in near-freezing water for somewhat longer periods of time, but nobody intentionally goes for a swim in water that cold. Most drowning accidents occur in the warmer months. This does not mean that CPR can safely be delayed if someone accidentally falls into the pool in the winter. It is usually impossible to know exactly when someone stopped breathing. The early CPR is started, the better.
Since serious brain damage or death occurs so quickly, it’s vital that parents know how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). CPR consists of one of the following:
Rescue breathing: If the patient still has a pulse but is not breathing, a person who knows CPR can perform rescue breathing, also known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Rescue breathing plus chest compressions: If the drowning victim doesn’t have a pulse, the rescuer or two people working in tandem can perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation plus chest compressions.
Although chest compressions alone have been recently recommended for heart attack victims, drowning victims need rescue breathing as well. The reason that full CPR must be performed on drowning victims without a pulse is that they have already been without air for such a long time. Since the combination is trickier to perform than chest compression alone, it’s essential that parents be trained in the proper technique.
When parents know CPR, they can begin the rescue process long before the ambulance gets there. Once the ambulance arrives, the paramedics can take over. Since the average length of time it takes an ambulance to arrive is over 10 minutes, surviving without damage is unlikely if parents have not performed CPR in the meantime. When CPR is done quickly, a drowning victim has chance at surviving without permanent damage.
Knowing how to perform CPR cannot substitute placing a quality pool fence around your pool.
Bethanie Christopher, RN has worked as a nurse for more than 30 years. She has worked in multiple nursing arenas, starting in the East Coast and then working in the West. Starting her teaching career about 7 years ago, Bethanie teaches CPR Classes along with First Aid, ACLS, BLS PALS, and NRP courses at Lifesaver Education in South Pasadena, CA.