Is it possible to drown after swimming, even hours later? Dry drowning is a term you may not be familiar with or even heard before. Unfortunately it is a medical condition that can be fatal if the warning signs are overlooked. So lets take a few minutes to discuss what dry drowning is, how to treat the symptoms, and perhaps most important how to avoid it in the first place. Our hearts go to families affected by child drownings. We read the articles and usually there are so many things that could have been done to prevent it, but that split second they stopped watching or got distracted the unimaginable happened. As a parent you may have read an article or hear someone talking about Dry Drowning. Yes, when a child, (or person) “drowns” hours later when on dry land! Even though incidents like this are extremely rare, it is a condition that you as a parent should keep in mind.
How it Starts
Summertime cookouts and swimming seem to go together perfectly. As a child we constantly heard, “after eating you can’t swim for 30 minutes!”. Our parents were looking after us wanting to keep us all safe. Jumping into the pool, horse play and laughing can cause a child to take in a small amount of water through the nose or mouth. In most cases the child simply coughs, clearing the water and continuing on normally. In rare instances this ingestion of water into the lungs can lead to a larger more serious problems. Technically “dry drowning and secondary drownings”, both considered submersion injuries, are not the same. Dry drowning is when the water starts a spasm in the airway causing it to close up. This can occur immediately after the incident, even when the child is out of the water. Secondary drowning is when a small amount of water gets all the way into the lungs. this water in the lungs makes it difficult or even impossible in some cases, for the body to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide. Secondary drowning can take as long as 24 hours before the person shows signs of distress.
Watch for Signs of Dry Drowning
Even though very rare, there are things you should be on the look out for as well as situations that might make you take more note.
- Water rescue – Any child pulled from the pool in distress needs medical attention, call the pediatrician if you have any concerns.
- Coughing – Persistent coughing or labored breathing and coughing needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
- Increased labored breathing – Rapid shallow breathing means they’re working harder to breathe than normal.
- Sleepiness – Your kid was just excitedly playing in the pool, and now she’s fatigued? It could mean not enough oxygen is getting into to her blood. Don’t put her to bed until her doctor gives you the go-ahead.
- Throwing up – This can be a result of the stress the body may be going through due to the inflammation of water and lack of oxygen.
Even though this is rarely a fatal injury, any changes noticed to your child after any kind of water injury or submersion injury should not be treated lightly. Seek medical attention if you have any concerns at all. Above all have fun this summer and enjoy the weather, the vacation time and the water.