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First aid measures in the event of drowning

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children whether or not they can swim. Each year, they are responsible for more than 500 accidental deaths according to the INVS (Institut de Veille Sanitaire). 90% of drownings take place within 50 meters of the seashore. And at the swimming pool, the risk of drowning is just as important.

What are the rescue actions to take? Take the child out of the water as quickly as possible and lay him on his back. First reflex: check if he is breathing. 

The child is unconscious, but still breathing: what to do?

To assess his breathing, it is necessary to clear the airways. Put one hand on the child’s forehead and tilt their head back slightly. Then, gently lift his chin. Be careful not to press under the chin in the soft part because this gesture can make breathing more difficult. Then check the child’s breathing by placing your cheek near their mouth for 10 seconds. Do you feel a breath? Until help arrives, it is recommended to protect the victim by placing him in the lateral safety position. Raise your arm to the side where you are positioned 90 degrees. Go and find the palm of his other hand, raise the knee on that same side, then tilt the child to the side. Have someone call for help or do it yourself. And regularly check the victim’s breathing until the firefighters arrive.

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The child is not breathing: resuscitation maneuvers

The situation is much more serious if the child does not ventilate. Entry of water into the airways caused cardio-respiratory arrest. We must act very quickly. The first action is to carry out 5 breaths in order to re-oxygenate the pulmonary air of the person, before proceeding to the cardiac massage by chest compressions. Notify emergency services (15th or 18th) and ask for a defibrillator to be brought to you immediately (if available). You must now implement the same resuscitation techniques as in the face of cardiac arrest, i.e. cardiac massage and mouth to mouth.

Cardiac massage

Position yourself well above the child, vertical to his chest. Assemble and place the two heels of both hands in the middle of the child’s breastbone (the central part of the thorax). Arms outstretched, compress the sternum vertically by pushing it 3 to 4 cm (1 to 2 cm in the infant). After each pressure, let the chest return to its original position. Perform 15 chest compressions, then 2 breaths (mouth to mouth), 15 compressions, 2 breaths and so on …

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The principle of this maneuver is to pass fresh air into the child’s lungs. Tilt the child’s head back and lift their chin. Place a hand on his forehead and pinch his nostrils. With the other hand, hold his chin so that his mouth opens and his tongue does not obstruct the passage. Inhale without forcing, lean towards the child and apply your mouth entirely to his. Slowly and steadily breathe air into her mouth and see if her chest lifts. Each breath lasts about 1 second. Repeat once, then resume compressions. You must continue the resuscitation maneuvers until help arrives.

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