The wilderness is a wonderful place to retreat for quiet reflection and healing. It is not always a benign location for young or old. The environment has many risks and its important that we have an understanding of the risks and how to mitigate them. As always prevention is much better than cure.
Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death and injury in children aged between 1 – 7 years old. Young males have a greater risk of drowning than their companions. This is often due to greater risk taking and the misuse of drugs and alcohol.
Drowning injures often occur in relatively small bodies of water. Children left to unattended often find a garden pond irresistible. It is important to when young children are present to properly assess the risk of drowning. Hot Tubs, swimming and paddling pools are obvious risks but any pool of water more than a few inches deep could pose a risk to an incapacitated child. In the woods we are often more aware of the dangers. Rivers and streams are great places to play and look for wildlife from fishing to tracking.
Learning to swim is an essential life skill and everyone should not matter their age learn to swim. Swimming is great exercise and fun. It is also an important skill that may save your life should you accidently enter the water.
What is Drowning?
Drowning can be defined as the accidental inhalation of a liquid sufficient to cause harm. A relatively small volume of water can cause damage to the lungs causing suffocation due to the bodies inability to absorb oxygen.
However many people that enter cold water suffer from cold water shock
Car entering the water.
People drown in their cars every year. This can be the result of crossing a ford in flood. It takes very little moving water to move a car. Always take care around moving water on expedition we often need to cross rivers. These narrow cause ways are often have deep water either side and depending on location large carnivores.
Preplanning your actions should your vehicle unexpectedly enter the water will drastically improve your chances of survival. Speed is essential you have between 30 seconds – 2 minutes to get out.
- Seat Belts
- Get Out.
We are assuming you have survived the initial impact with minimal traumatic injury.
Try not to panic. Control your breathing. Remove your seat belts. Open the windows. Whilst your car is still floating your chances of getting the windows open is much better. Electric motors often fail in these situations.
Now you have an exit you can attend to your children and others in the vehicle. Maintain your exit.
Larygospasm Swallowing water Aspirations.
Resulting in Hypoxia.
Always consider the prime rule. Do Not Become a casualty yourself.
Consider how you can recover the casualty from the water. What resources do you have? If the casualty is conscious can they self rescue. Shout and encourage the swimmer towards your location.
Position yourself where you can provide the most assistance. This will most likely be down stream of the swimmer. If you have a Throw Bag use it but remember ropes can cause issues of their own if you are not familiar with their use in river rescue.
A Pole or a branch that the causality can use to help themselves is a good choice if you have nothing else.
The absolutely last resort and only if you are suitably equipped is to enter the water yourself. Live Baiting and swift water rescues require training and practice. Forest Knights recommend RESCUE 3 swift water rescue courses. Although at a minimum those leading group on or near moving water should have White Water Safety and Rescue training.
- Base Line monitoring is important. (We don’t like change). Measure Blood Oxygen etc.
Asymptomatic: Can still be Hypoxic.
Symptomatic. Obvious airway distress. Coughing etc.
Even after rescue it is important to maintain close supervision of the casualty. A good buddy system is essential. Regular ongoing assessment is very important as a casualty may deteriorate suddenly.
Drowning in the real world is rarely like the films. People who are drowning and struggling to breathe are usually unable to call for help. Children who are unable to swim may submerge in less than 1 minute. Adults may struggle longer. People who are rescued may have a wide range of symptoms. These range from mild anxiety to a non breathing casualty. Breathing casualty’s maybe showing signs of respiratory distress, gasping , may vomit and have a rapid weak pulse. Treat the 3 Hippos and be prepared for CPR.