Dry and Secondary Drowning: What Parents Need to Know

A_young_Iraqi_girl_swims_in_the_new_swimming_pool_that_opened_in_Risalah,_Baghdad,_Iraq,_Sept._18,_2008_080918-N-KM397-076
Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

A study of near-drowning cases suggests roughly 5% of children who have had serious drowning scares go on to encounter secondary drowning.

Whether you plan to hit your local water park, stroll for seashells, ride waves at the beach, or soak up some sun at the pool, summer is the time to do it. Across the country, families are busy planning their final weeks of summer before the kids return to school. Water fun has all the ingredients of a good time and sunny escape, but it is important that parents always stay alert when enjoying family time at the beach, pool, or lake. With so many opportunities for water play and swimming, child drowning can peak in the summer months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two children die from drowning each day. Preschoolers ages 1-4 have the highest drowning rates, and drowning is the second leading cause of death after motor vehicle accidents for children 14 and under.

{ MORE: Sand in My Swimsuit: Tips for Visiting the Beach with Kids }

As parents, we all want to protect our children from harm. Family and caregivers can play a huge role in minimizing risk of drowning by teaching children how to swim, closely supervising them in the water, and learning life-saving skills like CPR. However, it is difficult to manage risk when one is unaware of a potential threat. It goes against common sense and logic to think that a person can drown even after they are out of the water, yet, that is just the case. In addition to conventional drowning, children who have had near-drowning experiences in the water are still at risk for drowning many hours later. This very rare, but potentially deadly condition, is referred to as “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning.”

Dry drowning occurs when a child breathes in small amounts of water while struggling to stay afloat in the water and the larynx and vocal cords spasm from the change in temperature when the cold water hits the throat. The spasms in the airway muscles prevent the water from going into the child's lungs, but they also prevent air from entering the lungs, too, making it very difficult to breathe and necessitating medical intervention.

{ MORE: Would You Know Enough to Save a Drowning Child? }

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Secondary drowning occurs when a child breathes in water while trying to stay afloat, and the water actually enters and irritates the lungs. Additional fluid produced in the lungs to deal with the irritation caused by ingested water collects, causing pulmonary edema and makes breathing challenging. If left untreated, pulmonary edema can lead to cardiac arrest.

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Dry and Secondary Drowning: What Parents Need to Know

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1 comment

  1. Danielle says:

    Great information to know

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