Dubai: The tragic death of Bollywood superstar Sridevi from “accidental drowning” in the bathtub of a Dubai hotel room last week, has raised serious concerns about the safety of what is generally believed to be a stress-busting soak-in.
While death in a bathtub may be rare in this part of the world, it is not uncommon in countries like the US and Japan. According to a study, an average 335 deaths a year, or nearly one a day, occur in a bathtub in the US with victims often being under the influence.
In Japan, drowning in bathtubs rose 70 per cent in 10 years, says another study.
Making a general comment, without any reference to Sridevi’s case, Dr Ali Ganai, GP Accident and Emergency at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital in Dubai, said, “Drowning is death by suffocation due to immersion in water. It may either be “wet”, where the victim has inhaled water or “dry”, a less common condition, but one that involves the closing of the airway due to spasms induced by water. The actual physical action of drowning depends on the circumstances.”
According to him, alcohol consumption is one of the most frequently reported contributory factors associated with drownings and near-drownings in adults. He said medical emergencies that occur in the water can also lead to drowning.
“These may include, among others, seizures, heart attacks (myocardial infarction), sudden cardiac death, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar in a person with diabetes).”
He said the consequences and symptoms of drowning vary widely.
“A drowning victim may show no symptoms and have no complaints, or may just be found dead. Rarely do you find someone who is thrashing in water. Instead, most drownings are unwitnessed and the person is found floating or submerged in the water.”
“Those who are alive may be anxious, confused and short of breath. It is the function of the brain and lungs that is the main concern in drowning victims and they should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.”
He said, “To arrive at the diagnosis, one usually begins with a history of the events. Answers are required for many questions regarding the age of the patient, underlying medical problems, consumption of prescription or non-prescription medications, drug or alcohol use, how long the person has been unattended and whether the person suffered trauma, loss of consciousness before or after episode, seizure, chest pain and cardiac arrest.” Dr Ganai said the key to dealing with a drowned person is to get him or her out of the water immediately.
“Then check to see if he or she is breathing. If not, begin CPR immediately. Call for emergency medical help. Don’t waste time trying to drain water from the patient’s lungs. Concentrate instead on giving rescue breathing and CPR until the patient is breathing on his or her own. Vomiting of swallowed water is very likely during CPR.”
He said people with a history of depression and seizures should avoid going into a bathtub unsupervised. A tub bath after alcohol consumption is also a no-no.
Injuries to kids
Rebecca Smith, founder of Safe Hands UAE, which offers certified first aid training courses to ensure the safety of children, said, “Burns and scalds are the most common injuries that take place in bathtubs. They happen because the water is too hot and the tap is turned on without checking the temperature.”
She said it is extremely dangerous to leave children unattended in a bathtub as they can drown even in a few inches of water.
“There are cases of secondary drowning we talk about in our courses where basically a child inhales some water and this creates an auto immune response with the lungs secreting mucus and fluid. Although this is rare, it can happen and the child drowns from inside the body,” she said.
Smith said special child bathtubs must be used for young kids as they are designed to prevent the risk of sliding. “Where adults are concerned, due care must be exercised not to take any medication, be it sleeping pills, anti-depressants or muscle relaxants before getting into a bathtub. One must also be careful if one has a pre-condition,” Smith noted.
Celebrities who died in the bathtub:
Judy Garland: The American actress, best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, died in her rented house in Chelsea, London on June 22, 1969. She was 47. Cause of death: “An incautious self-overdosage” of barbiturates.
Jim Morrison: The lead singer of The Doors died in a rented apartment in Paris on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27. Cause of death: Heart failure but no autopsy was performed as it was not required by French law.
Whitney Houston: The American singer/actress, who was cited by Guinness World Records as one of the most awarded celebrities died at the age of 48 in 2012. Cause of death: drowning and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use”.
Bobbi Kristina Brown: The daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was found comatose in the bathtub of her Georgia home on January 31, 2015. She passed away six months later at the age of 22. Cause of death: Not ascertained yet.
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