A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 10

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
Accidents—Drowning
S. Ganesan pages 127-129

Chapter X

SOME ACCIDENTS: DROWNING

We will now turn our attention to some of the more common accidents, and the methods of dealing with them. A knowledge of these things is essential to everybody, so that timely help may be rendered, and the loss of many precious lives averted. Even children should be taught to deal with these cases, as in that way they are the more likely to grow up kind and thoughtful citizens.

And first we will deal with drowning. As man cannot live without air for more than 5 minutes at the most, little life generally remains in a drowning man taken out of water. Immediate steps should, therefore, be taken to bring him back to life. Two things have specially to be done for these,—artificial respiration, and the application of warmth. We should not forget that very often such 'First aid' has to be rendered by the side of tanks and rivers, where all the needed materials are not easily available, and such aid can be most effectual only when there are at least two or three men on the spot. The first-aider should also possess the qualities of resourcefulness, patience, and briskness; if he himself loses his presence of mind, he can do nothing. So too, if the attendants begin to discuss methods, or quarrel over details, there is no hope for the man. The best one in the party should lead, and the others should implicitly follow his directions.

As soon as the man is taken out of water, his wet clothes should be removed, and his body wiped dry. Then he should be made to lie on his face, with his hands under the head. Then, with our hand on his chest, we should remove from his mouth the water and dirt that might have got in. At this time his tongue would come out of his mouth, when it should be caught hold of with a kerchief, and held till consciousness returns. Then he should at once be turned over, with the head and the chest a little raised above the feet. Then one of the attendants should kneel by his head, and slowly spread out and straighten his arms on either side. By this means his ribs will be raised, and the air outside can enter into his body; then his hands should be quickly brought back and folded on his chest, so that the chest may contract and the air be expelled. In addition to this, hot and cold water should be taken in the hands and poured on his chest. If a fire can be lighted or procured, the man should be warmed with it. Then all the available clothes should be wrapped round his body, which should be thoroughly rubbed for warmth. All this should be tried for a long time without losing hope. In some cases, such methods have to be applied for several hours on and before breathing is restored. As soon as signs of consciousness appear, some hot drink should be administered. The juice of lime in hot water, or decoction of cloves, pepper, and the bark of the bay-tree, will be found specially effective. The smell of tabacco may also prove useful. People should not be allowed to crowd round the patient, and obstruct the free passage of air.

The signs of death in such cases are the following. The complete cessation of breathing and the beating of heart and lungs, as indicated by a piece of of peacock-feather held near the nose remaining quite steady, or a miror held near the mouth being undimmed by the moisture in the breath; the eyes remaining fixed and half-open, with heavy eye-lids; the jaws getting fixed; the fingers getting crooked; the tongue protruding between the teeth; the mouth getting frothy; nose getting red; the whole body turning pale. If all these signs simultaneously appear, we may conclude that the man is dead. In some rare cases, life may still remain even when all these signs are present. The only conclusive test of death is the setting in of decomposition. Hence the patient should never be given up for lost, until after a long and patient application of remedial measures.