Dr Khalid Al Ansari
Dr Khalid Al Ansari

With 15 incidences of near drowning and two fatalities recorded so far this year at Paediatric Emergency Centres of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), parents and caregivers are once again reminded about the importance of water safety.

According to the Hamad International Training Centre’s Kulluna for Health and Safety initiative, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death and serious disability in children in Qatar. 90% of drowning cases involve children under the age of 10, with 70% of these cases involving children under the age of four.

So far this year, the HMC Paediatric Emergency Centres have received approximately 15 children involved in near drownings, according to Dr Khalid Al Ansari, Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at HMC. He said that two children had succumbed to their injuries as a result of drowning.

Due to their injuries, we were unable to revive them. This is sad and difficult for the affected families.’

Dr Al Ansari said that while drownings and near-drownings are normally associated with deep water and swimming in pools or the sea, global statistics indicate that children can drown in bathtubs, fish tanks, buckets, toilet bowls, and at building sites. A child can drown in less than two minutes, and in as little as 5 centimetres of liquid, underscoring the need for constant supervision around water.

Dr Al Ansari said that when medical professionals are able to intervene quickly, it is possible for a child who has drowned, or has been involved in a near-drowning, to make a complete recovery. He adds that while dry and secondary drownings are rare, the conditions are extremely serious and it is important for parents and caregivers to recognise their symptoms.

Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning

underwater babyDry drowning can resemble choking. It occurs when water enters the nose or mouth and the muscles close off and spasm. It normally occurs soon after exiting the water. In contrast, secondary drowning occurs when water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling. The condition can occur up to 24 hours after a near-drowning incident, underscoring the importance of both knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for and ensuring that any child who has experienced a near drowning receives medical attention.

When a child survives a drowning, they still need to be assessed by a medical practitioner as soon as possible (no longer than one hour after the event) to assess the risk of dry or secondary drowning. The symptoms of secondary drowning can appear hours after a near-drowning experience. These submersion injuries are very serious and can be fatal.’

Dr Al Ansari explained that the symptoms of secondary drowning include trouble breathing, coughing, drowsiness, a drop in energy level, irritability, chest pain, and vomiting. He said that while rare, secondary drowning is life-threatening and it’s important for parents to know the signs and symptoms.

It’s important for parents to learn how to recognise the signs of secondary and dry drowning so they won’t attribute the symptoms associated with these conditions, such as fatigue or a drop in their child’s energy level, to a long day of swimming, or exhaustion from a near drowning. While these conditions are somewhat rare, they can be fatal, so it is important to have the child examined immediately as a precautionary measure.’

He said that the most important thing that parents and caregivers can do is to help prevent a drowning. He recommends watching children closely when they are in or around water, only swimming in areas that have a lifeguard, never letting children swim alone, and never leaving a baby alone near any amount of water – including in the home.

Incidents of drowning can occur anywhere there is water. Be it at home, in the ocean, at the beach, seaside, at swimming pools, and even in bathtubs. This is why it is so important for children to be supervised around water and also for caregivers to prevent children from gaining access to water when there is no adult supervising them. It is important for parents or caregivers to always be attentive whenever their child is around water.’

For more updates and information about the services at HMC, visit hamad.qa