• Dr. Liz Homan

Drowning... Summer Safety Series

So far this summer we have talked about Sun Exposure and Heat Exhaustion due to being left in a vehicle for too long. For July’s Summer Safety Series blog we are going to be talking about Water Safety! And not just your typical water safety (always be present and focused, knowing CPR, teaching your child how to swim, etc.), but about Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning.

So first, let’s look at what drowning is. It is when someone has trouble breathing after getting water into the airways either while swimming, bathing or simply getting water in your mouth. If help is obtained right away when someone is drowning, it is possible and very probable to survive.


Dry drowning is different than drowning. With Dry Drowning, water actually never reaches the lungs but when water gets in the mouth as a child is breathing it causes the vocal cords to spasm and close up. This in turn shuts off the airway making it had to breath. As an attentive parent, you will notice signs of this right away.


Secondary drowning is another drowning complication. When water gets into the lungs it can irritate the lining and fluid will build up causing pulmonary edema. This makes it hard for your child to breath and may get worse over time.


Both Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning are very rare and only make up 1-2% of all drowning but it is still important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.


So what are the symptoms? The most common symptoms are coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing and feeling extremely tired. There is less oxygen getting to the brain which may lead to a change in behavior and an increase in irritability.


If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, please get medical assistance right away! Most times these symptoms will go away on their own over time, but it is still a great idea to have your child evaluated. If problems do develop, they are usually treatable if medical attention is gotten right away. If things continues to progress, it may be necessary to take a chest X-rays to evaluate the lungs.


As always, we want to talk about what we can do to prevent this from ever happening! The big things are your standard swim safety and to be attentive to your child after they are done swimming. And please remember, drowning can occur in any depth of water, including toilet bowls and bathtubs!

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