Every year, well over 4000 people become victims of drowning, making it the fourth most popular cause of accidental death. Sadly, over a third of these involve children under the age of 18, and more cases of death by drowning in swimming pools than while out in the ocean or while boating with the family. While some cases of drowning are due to natural disasters, such as floods or hurricanes, many are simply avoidable tragedies that result from improper education and supervision while near water. In some cases, the victim was not alone when drowning, but with others who simply did not know proper first aid for drowning. Knowing what to do in case of drowning may not only save your own life, it can help you save the life of a loved one.
Before attempting to rescue a drowning person, it's imperative to assess the situations. Many people, even those who were strong swimmers, have jumped into unstable bodies of water to rescue a drowning person, only to also become a casualty. Never attempt to rescue another person if it appears the situation may put your own life at risk. In most cases, this act is not heroic, it simply compounds the tragedy.
If you're able to reach a drowning victim and he is responsive, throw him a buoy or a life jacket attached to a long pole or stick. Make sure the buoyant object is fastened securely. In most cases, this will allow you to pull him to shore. If the victim is too far away, or irresponsive, take a canoe or boat out into the water to rescue the victim. Strong swimmers may find it a quick process to swim out to the victim and physically pull him back to shore; just be sure you're strong enough to support at least some of the weight of the drowning victim. A 120-pound woman trying to rescue a 250-pound man from the water may find herself pulled under by his weight, or unable to bring him back to shore successfully.
Once the victim has been reclaimed, begin CPR immediately. Most drowning deaths occurs from lack of oxygen to the brain, so it's important to get excess fluid out of the victim's lungs and get him breathing again. Once a victim has been without oxygen for 5-7 minutes, the odds are not good for him being revived without suffering long-term brain damage or ending up on permanent life support. Perform CPR and keep the victim's airway clear until help arrives.