How Long Does It Take To Drown (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 40 To 50 Seconds

Among many, drowning is a natural yet unnatural method of death. In general, drowning is a type of suffocation caused due to immersion of both, nose and mouth in the water. In most cases, drowning is fatal and can lead to death. While in some cases, when the drowning person is rescued at the right time and is found unconscious but not dead, he or she can be revived by the CPR method. 

How Long Does It Take To Drown?

AgeTime
Infant10 seconds
Young people20 to 30 seconds
Adults30 to 40 seconds
Old people20 to 30 seconds

On average, a normal human being can hold his or her breath under the water for up to 50 seconds. However, in a state of drowning, the time duration gets decreased to 40 to 50 seconds. However, this is just a general calculation. The time varies from person to person. Many factors determine the time, and among them, one of the main factors is the age of the person.

Infants, when in a state of drowning, would not be able to hold their breath longer than 10 seconds. The reason behind that is because the lungs of the infants are not completely developed and even the capacity of the lungs of holding breath is also quite small.

Talking about young children, when in a state of drowning would be able to hold their breaths for up to 20 to 30 seconds. After that, they would drown.

Adult people can hold their breaths for up to 30 to 40 seconds when drowning. It is so because as age increases, the body gets more developed, so does the lung. The efficiency of the lungs increases and their capacity of holding breaths also increases. Moreover, the brain also gets developed enough to handle situations of panic. Thus, it takes the longest for adult people to drown.

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Lastly, old age people can drown within just 20 to 30 seconds. It is so because, after a particular time in life, the efficiency of the body organs decreases and becomes less functional. As a result, the time duration for old age people to drown is smaller than for adult people.

Why Does It Take That Long To Drown?

When we think of theoretically and practically as well, a normal human can easily hold breath for up to a minute. However, when the same human is under the water and is in a state of drowning, then he or she would barely be able to hold his or her breath for a complete minute long. The reason behind that is human psychology. 

When we intentionally try to hold our breath, then our mind gets mentally prepared for it. The brain imparts messages to the body parts to get prepared for holding a breath. At this condition, muscles relax, making themselves the use of oxygen content from the body, lungs get prepared to take up as much air as possible and other such changes happen in the body. All these changes made in the body by the brain make an average human being capable enough to hold a breath easily for at least one minute.

However, things are a lot different when we talk about holding breath under the water, especially, in a state of getting drowned. In this situation, it is nearly impossible for any person to hold his or her breath for as long as a minute. The reason behind that is because, in this situation, the brain and the body are not mentally prepared to hold their breath. The situation gets extremely chaotic and the body starts becoming unconscious. The body gets in a state of panic which results in extreme movements of arms and legs. As a result, the muscles get into vigorous motions making them consume more and more oxygen. This also contributes to the shortage of oxygen, making it impossible for a person to hold breath for a longer time.

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Conclusion

Once rescued, the victims of drowning can have anywhere from nominal to serious health issues. Nominal symptoms can cause vomiting and nausea. Whereas, serious health issues can include acute respiratory distress syndrome. Thus, it is always to take measures when near such places where people have the risk to drown.

References

  1. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1013317
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199301283280407
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