Can CPR be Performed in the Water?

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death worldwide. A victim of drowning requires urgent first aid treatment, for example, CPR if they are not breathing normally. CPR needs to be commenced as soon as possible to have the best chance of helping the victim. But, can CPR actually be performed whilst the victim is still in the water?

Short answer – no, CPR can’t be effectively performed whilst the victim is still in the water. A rescuer will need to remove the victim from the water before beginning CPR

It may be possible to deliver some rescue breaths to the victim whilst they are still in the water. Various techniques are taught on lifeguarding and rescue diver courses. However, there is no effective way to perform chest compressions on a victim still in the water. Chest compressions require the victim to be on a hard surface so that the chest is compressed adequately. Each chest compression needs to reach a depth of at least 5cm (2 inches), this would be very difficult to achieve with the victim still floating in the water.

A drowning victim should be removed from the water as soon as possible so that effective resuscitation can be commenced and their airway can be opened. Remember, as a rescuer, you should never place yourself in danger. If you become injured then you will be unable to help the original victim. Do not enter the water unless you are trained and confident of the water conditions.

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