LEONARD E. MORGAN, CUSTOM MEDICAL STOCK PHOTO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY LEONARD E. MORGAN, CUSTOM MEDICAL STOCK PHOTO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Saltwater drowning. Illustration of the effect of drowning in sea water on the lung's alveoli (air sacs). Saltwater drowning is less dangerous than drowning in freshwater. The inhaled saltwater draws water (arrows) out of the blood capillaries and into alveoli by osmosis, preventing pulmonary collapse but obstructing gas exchange. Calcium and magnesium quickly enter the blood, causing cardiac arrest. Artificial restoration of circulation by cardiac massage often leads to spontaneous return of heartbeat and breathing due to dissipation of magnesium and calcium in the blood. Cold seawater can delay anoxic brain damage for over 30 minutes.
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