Update on Drowning (SAMJ July 2017)

Impacting drowning fatality in South Africa will require broad based collaboration on prevention across civil society.

South Africa has a high fatal drowning rate (4/100 000) comparable to most low income countries and a significant number of the 2 000 deaths a year are children.  Prevention needs to encompass a range of activities including awareness campaigns, education, swimming competency, personal flotation device usage, alcohol control, swimming pool regulations etc. within a broad Preventative Framework.

Drowning is defined as respiratory impairment (problems with getting oxygen to the lungs and body) as a result of immersion or submersion in a liquid and outcomes are either fatal or non-fatal. We no longer refer to near-drowning.

Emergency medical management of drowning includes immediate rescue, rapid access to bystander and ambulance care and transport to a hospital emergency centre. Resuscitation skills are a core component of care. Survival depends fundamentally on submersion time and the severity of the hypoxic event. Survival decreases exponentially (steeply) with increased submersion time.


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