Drowning awareness. Prevention and treatment

Aust Fam Physician. 2000 Nov;29(11):1045-9.


Background: Drowning is a common, preventable problem, especially in childhood where it is the second most common cause of death by accident in Australia, with 0-4 year olds comprising 22% of all drownings. Commonest sites for drowning are nontidal lakes and lagoons; private swimming pools (especially preschool children); ocean/estuary and surfing beaches; bathtub and bucket drownings (especially in infants and toddlers with up to 10% of bucket drownings due to child abuse).

Objective: This article reviews the current information on the epidemiology, prevention and treatment of drowning.

Discussion: Despite prevention strategies, including pool fencing, drowning rates in young children have remained relatively static. In older children, drowning rates have declined dramatically despite the lack of prevention. The indigenous population have a much higher rate of drowning than the overall figure and their toddler rate is very high. Approximately 69% of near drowning victims will have complete neurological recovery, 28% will suffer some selective deficit, and 3% survive in a permanent vegetative state. Alcohol has been strongly implicated in drowning and banning alcohol from adjacent swimming areas has reduced drowning rates. Overseas tourists were 4.7% of all nonboating drownings in Australia with 89% of these drowning in the ocean. Further funding for drowning prevention strategies are essential, yet noticeably lacking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / mortality
  • Drowning / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Near Drowning / therapy*
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Survival Rate