Characterizing Cold Water Drownings in the Great Lakes

Research Mentor Name

Dr. Anthony Lagina

Research Mentor Email Address

Institution / Department

Wayne State University School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Research Abstract

Research Type



Since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Great Lakes drownings have increased. The Great Lakes are a unique and understudied environment due to being cold, fresh water, and resuscitation protocols and guidelines being derived from warm, primarily salt water environments. We analyzed open sources materials to find records of Great Lakes drownings from 2021-2023 and analyze the data looking for trends in cold and warm water drownings.

We found 80.0-85.0% of the included drowning victims were male and had an average age of 38.0-39.0 years old. 40.0%-57.7% of Great Lakes drowning deaths were in cold water; of those, Lake Michigan had the highest number of cold water drownings each year, while Lake Huron and Lake Superior had the least.

The drowning victims in this cohort were predominantly adult men. Additionally, almost 50% of Great Lakes drownings were cold water drownings. These results do not suggest cold water is protective, although drowning and near drowning survival rates are needed to definitively determine whether there is a significant difference. This study provided strong reasoning and foundation for further studies in cold water resuscitation. This is an unmet need, especially within Great Lakes states, and could help improve mortality of cold water drownings.


Emergency Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences

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