Drowning and Suffocation. Dr. Marshall Hall, after careful research, shews that to induce the act of breathing is the first thing to be attended to in drowning Or Suffocation. And the reason is: the lungs refuse to act, not so much because the common air with its oxygen cannot find entrance, but because the carbonic acid remains in the blood. Let us look at the mode of treatment which Dr. Marshall Hall recommends. Suppose the body to be taken from the water, it is to be at once laid on the face, not on the back, and in the open air, if houses be so far distant as to cause long delay in the removal. Every minute is precious. Being laid on the face, with the head towards the breeze, the arms are to be placed under the forehead, so as to keep the face and month clear of the ground. In this position the tongue falls forward, draws with it the epiglottis, and leaves the glottis open. In other words, the windpipe is open, and the throat is cleared by fluids or mucus flowing from the mouth.
The reason for placing the body in the prone position, on the face, will be better understood by noticing what takes place when it is on its back. The tongue then falls backwards, sinks, so to speak, into the throat, and closes up the windpipe, so that no air can possibly find its way to the lungs, except by force.
The body, therefore, being laid on its face, there is a natural pressure of the chest and abdomen which causes an expiration. This may be increased by some additional pressure. Then if the body be lifted by an attendant placing one hand under the shoulder, the other under the hip, and turning it partly on its left side, there will be an inspiration. The air will rush into the lungs with considerable violence. Then the expiration may be repeated by letting the body descend, and so on, up and down alternately. And thus, without instruments of any kind, and with the hands alone, if not too late, we accomplish that respiration which is the sole effective means of the elimination of blood poison. It is worthy of notice that by this means a really dead body may be made to breathe before it has become stiff - as experiment fully demonstrates.
About sixteen times a minute is the rate at which the body should be made to rise and fall in the endeavour to renew respiration. The clothes in the meantime should be changed for others dry and warm. Or, if in a warm room, four persons should seize the limbs with their hands, and rub them with firm pressure upwards. The warm bath is not to be compared with this mode of restoring warmth, and not warmth only, but the circulation, if it be pursued with energy. The blood is driven upwards, and though venous, may stimulate the heart.
The warm bath is on no account to be used until breathing has been restored. Dr. Hall says, it is "injurious;" and to place the patient in a sitting position in warm water, is "to renounce the only hope." In France its use has been forbidden by authoritv.