With summer almost in full swing, we are getting ready to shed our warm clothing for some well-deserved sun exposure. This increased heat may prompt you to visit your local swimming pool or take a dip in your very own. However, this summertime activity increases your risk of drowning. It is estimated that about 10 lives a day in the U.S. are claimed by this unforeseen circumstance.
Drowning is the inability to breathe after being submerged in water for an extended period of time. It can lead to death and if you’re lucky enough to survive, ongoing health problems. Drowning is quick and often silent, making it a very tragic way to die.
When someone who’s drowning is spotted, they are usually rescued in time. However, they may be brought onto land in an unconscious condition. This is where CPR, otherwise known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is done.
Time is of the essence
Immediate CPR on a near-drowning victim increases their chances to recover with good brain function. This includes performing chest compressions on the part of the chest where the heart lies beneath. When drowning, the heart is in cardiac arrest and not beating. Because of this, blood is not being supplied to important organs and tissues around the body. This includes the brain.
By compressing the chest, you are essentially manually pumping the heart. While not as good as the real thing, it is better than nothing.
A study that included more than 900 cases of people who suffered from cardiac arrest after almost drowning found that those who got CPR by bystanders were three times more likely to do well and not suffer from severe brain damage.
“What we found is that when bystanders begin CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] before emergency personnel arrive, the person has a higher chance of leaving the hospital and leading a life reasonably close to the one they had before the drowning,” said study leader Dr. Joshua Tobin, associate professor of clinical anesthesiology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
CPR was found to be superior to an AED, or automated external defibrillator. The researchers are not sure how to explain this difference.
CPR preserves brain function
Cardiac arrest due to any reason presents the risk of impeding blood to the brain. It takes about six minutes for brain tissue to start dying after the heart stops, which makes every second crucial.
“When we talk about cardiac arrest, there’s no doubt that we want people to survive. But surviving and being in a persistent vegetative state would not be considered a success by most people. That’s why we chose to stratify the results by favorable or unfavorable neurological outcomes,” Tobin said.
Learning to perform CPR is a useful skill to have and one that is taught by many local organizations. You never know when tragedy will strike, so it’s best to be prepared when it does.