When we think of drowning we think of water replacing the air in our lungs. There are four main ways that people drown and some of them do not even require water to enter the mouth or nose to cause death. Looking at the way a person has drowned the investigator can further investigate the cause of the drowning and look for foul play.
1. Wet Drowning
Wet drowning is the type of drowning most people associate with the word Drowning. Wet drowning is where water enters the mouth and or nose and mixes with the air in the lungs, halting the ability of the body to absorb oxygen.
A wet drowning victim can be identified by foaming at the mouth and nostrils as the water-air mixture comes up through the lungs. An autopsy also sometimes reveal water in the stomach too (This is due to the person gulping for air but then swallowing water instead).
2. Vagal Inhibition
Sometimes when water unexpectedly enters the nose of a person it can cause a spasm of the Larynx. This spasm, in turn, puts enormous pressure on the Vagus nerve. This nerve that is in the form of a bulb connects the heart and the brain and regulates blood pressure. Because the pressure on the Vagus nerve is immense during the laryngeal spasm the brain thinks that blood pressure is extremely high and sends a signal to the heart to stop.
Drowning through shock is one of the two ways to drown without water entering the body. When a person has a heart attack when they enter the water suddenly. People that are highly susceptible to drowning by shock is ones that are intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs. This is the reason that many sailors drown when they come back from a night out and fall into the water and drown.
Hypothermia occurs when the body loses its core temperature and causes the person to lose consciousness. When a person is subjected to cold water temperatures for a long time and there is not enough energy to keep the person going and they subsequently drown.
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