Dry drowning: Know the signs, what to do

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Did you know a child can swim all day and seem fine after getting out of the water, but then have trouble breathing many hours later? (SHUTTERSTOCK)

Did you know a child can swim all day and seem fine after getting out of the water, but then have trouble breathing many hours later? Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Medical Center's Dr. Richard Kang spoke to Eyewitness News about the signs of a dangerous condition called dry drowning.

Below is a Q&A on the dangers, warning signs and preventative measures one can take:

Q - What is dry drowning and secondary drowning?

Dry drowning is a rare occurrence that happens when a child gets water in his or her nose or mouth. The throat then closes up to prevent water from getting into the lungs, Kang explained. Secondary drowning is when water enters the lungs and a child has trouble breathing. You may see symptoms up to 48 hours after the occurrence.

Q- Can either of these cause death?

It can cause death if you don't see the signs right away. A child essentially has trouble breathing, and if you don't do any rescue methods, the child can suffer a serious illness.

Q- What are the signs to look for?

  • Coughing: There's another type of occurrence where water can enter the lungs, which causes persistent coughing or inflamed lungs.

  • Sleepiness/Extreme tiredness: Due to not enough oxygen getting to the brain, the child may get very tired or sleepy.

  • Forgetfulness: This symptom can also occur as a sign of not enough oxygen getting to the brain.

  • Vomiting/Diarrhea: Both symptoms can occur due to the amount of stress the body is going through.


Q- How does dry drowning/secondary drowning happen?

It's not necessarily the amount of water a child swallows, but the water that gets into the body. It can happen by simply splashing around in a pool, so make sure to look out for the signs.

Q- How can you prevent dry drownings?

Always keep a close eye on children when they're in a pool or body of water.

Q- What should you do if you suspect dry or secondary drowning?

Seek medical attention right away if you notice any of the above symptoms.

VIDEO: Dry and secondary drowning: Hidden threats for swimmers
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Learn more about dry drowning and secondary drowning.

Related Topics:
healthwarningparentingdrowningu.s. & worldchildren's healthsafetyswimming
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