Drowning can be quick and quiet, and children are often not seen entering the water due to distraction or lack of supervision: a one minute phone call or message is ample time for a child to drown.
Death, or a life-changing injury such as brain damage, can happen in as little as 70 seconds, with only a very small amount of inhaled water needed to cause drowning.
Drowning is a process caused by water covering the airway (known as immersion). This leads to water being inhaled into the lungs, affecting or stopping breathing, then quickly stopping oxygen to the brain. This can result in life-changing or fatal injuries.
‘Dry drowning’, ‘near drowning’ or ‘secondary drowning’ are phrases you may have read in the newspaper or on social media.
These are misleading and non-medical terms – they are really referring to the medical complications that occur after a 'drowning event', which is when a person has been immersed in water for any period of time that leads to oxygen being prevented from reaching the brain.
After a 'drowning event', medical complications might take several hours to present and ultimately can be life-threatening.
Drowning is a medical emergency. Even if you only suspect a drowning might have happened, you should call 999 and get to hospital as soon as possible.
Look out for distress, coughing, struggling for breath, discharge from the lungs or loss of consciousness. Nobody will criticise caution when a suspected child drowning is concerned.
Early and sustained CPR can reduce the injury and greatly helps improves the chances of survival.
NB: NHS Choices has an in-depth guide on CPR. We’d also advise parents and carers to take a child first aid training course – they’re available from a variety of providers.