Dry Drowning – What a Parent Needs to Know
It’s that time of year where our sons and daughters flock outdoors and participate in a variety of activities which often involve water of some kind.
Whether it is lounging by the pool, swimming at the beach, or soaking in the tub, our children take to the water like fish.
These favorite summertime childhood activities make it essential that we review and educate ourselves about common water dangers.
For most parents, our minds often immediately turn to drowning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of death among kids and for every child who dies, there are another five children who received emergency treatment for their injuries.
Most of us know the common signs a child is struggling in the water and possibly drowning.
Unfortunately, there is a sneaky form of drowning that affects our kids and can be difficult to detect.
It’s known as dry or secondary drowning and is believed to be responsible for one to two percent of all drowning accidents.
Dry drowning, while rare, can occur on dry land, on a sandy beach, or in our backyard.
There have been several stories in the news lately about children who seemed fine after swimming or playing in water, only to have trouble breathing later as they essentially “drown” in our homes or hospitals.
As our kids look for fun ways to cool off, it’s essential that we have the facts and information we need to keep our sons and daughters safe as possible when they are in and out of the water.
What is Dry Drowning?
The scary thing about dry drowning is that it can happen hours after a child was in the water, sometimes 24 hours after swimming or taking a bath.
Dry drowning happens when a child inhales water, even though it might not fully reach the lungs, and causes the air passageway to seal in a protective reflex.
This leads the airways to spasm and close, making it difficult for the child to breathe.
It forces the victim to breathe deeper, requiring more effort.
Unfortunately, this just increases the vacuum effect within the chest.
Which in turn, deprives the body of oxygen and leads to suffocation.
Overtime, this obstruction of oxygen and the restricted release of carbon dioxide can result in death.
It is called “dry” drowning, because it occurs out and away from the water source.
How Dry Drowning Happens
This type of drowning often occurs when a child inhales a little water.
Maybe, they slipped in the pool and went under, inhaled while blowing bubbles in the bath, or had a close call in the lake?
Maybe, we didn’t even notice that they took in water?
However, after a few coughs or minutes, the child appears to be fine and soon everyone forgets about the incident.
Unfortunately, the damage has been done.
Hours later, the child starts to exhibit symptoms of not feeling well or having difficulty breathing.
Drowning is far from our minds, after all, we are not near the water.
Dry Drowning Warning Signs and Symptoms
If you have had to rescue a child from the water, experts advise seeking medical attention or at least calling the pediatrician for advice.
Unfortunately, not every child will have an obvious accident.
Due to the fact that we might not have witnessed our children swallowing a little water, it is vital that we know the following signs of dry drowning:
- Chest Pain
- Trouble Breathing
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Behavior Changes
What to Do if You Suspect Dry Drowning
Even though dry drowning is rare, any time we feel concerned or think there is a possibility that a child is experiencing dry drowning, seek medical advice right away.
If we just make a call to your pediatrician, a doctor can help talk us through it and find our next course of action.
Often, they will recommend visiting a physician, heading to the ER, or finding a local urgent care center.
However, if a child is experiencing difficulty breathing and really struggling, don’t hesitate to call 911 or find the nearest emergency room.
Their ultimate goal will be to increase blood flow to the lungs and get the child breathing well on their own again.
Safety Measures to Prevent Dry Drowning
These incidents, while terrifying can be prevented and treated with a little awareness.
Listed below are 5 essential safety tips for preventing dry drowning:
- Have children take swimming lessons.
- Seal off access to pools with fences or locked gates.
- ALWAYS supervise kids near any type of water.
- Learn CPR and basic lifesaving techniques.
- Follow boating safety rules and wear lifejackets at all times.
What precautions does your family take to prevent drowning or dry drowning?