Treatment of people recovered from cold water
Check for vital signs. Is the casualty breathing? Are they unconscious (unresponsive) or conscious?
Begin appropriate First Aid as described below. See also the flow diagram in the appendix.
Always obtain medical advice as soon as possible, even if the casualty has not been in cold water for long, and is conscious. Free advice may be obtained from a Telemedical Assistance Service (TMAS), which can be contacted via a Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC).
Adopt standard First Aid procedures.
If not breathing:
- Check/clear airway; if still not breathing give two full rescue breaths.
- Commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in accordance with First Aid training.
- While awaiting medical advice continue CPR at a compression rate of 100 per minute, with two rescue breaths every 30 compressions.
- Continue until exhausted if acting alone. If assistance is available, interchange every two minutes to avoid exhaustion.
- If the cardiac arrest was not witnessed; if medical advice is still not available and none is imminent; and if there are still no signs of life after 30 minutes, stop CPR but treat the casualty in accordance with the advice in section 9 below.
- If the cardiac arrest was witnessed, maintain CPR until you are either exhausted or receive medical advice.
If breathing but unconscious:
- Transfer to a sheltered location.
- Check for other injuries.
- Place in the recovery position.
- Beware of vomiting which is very common in seawater drowning.
Short exposure (less than about 30 minutes): survivor is shivering