What is Dry Drowning?

| By Tots N Teens Pediatrics

What is Dry Drowning? - Tots N Teens Pediatrics

Drowning Remains a Constant Danger During the Summer

The summer is full of fun activities for the whole family. Family vacations, camping, and trips to the beach all bring fun in the sun. However, one danger throughout the course of the summer is drowning. Traditional drowning known as submerged drowning is the most common type people are aware of, but there are others. Dry drowning and secondary drowning are very rare conditions that very few are aware of, but they can be deadly.

This type of drowning typically happens to children, and while 95% of children do end up fine after ending up underwater, it is important to stay alert and aware of any drowning symptoms in your child.

Dry Drowning vs Secondary Drowning

It is important to discuss secondary drowning along with dry drowning as while they are different, they share similarities that cannot be overlooked. These both result after sustaining injuries while being underwater. While these conditions are rare, they should not be ignored. Their differences are:

  • Dry Drowning: Dry drowning typically sets in about an after an individual has inhaled water. Water never actually reaches the lungs, but instead, breathing in water causes the child’s vocal cords to spasm in an effect called laryngospasm. The vocal cords end up closing over the windpipe, preventing oxygen from entering or leaving the lungs. The signs will be noticeable right away.
  • Secondary Drowning: Secondary drowning can actually occur up to 48 hours after a water incident. Unlike dry drowning, water actually makes its way to the lungs. The lining of the lungs then becomes irritated as fluid builds up, causing pulmonary edema.

While both dry drowning and secondary drowning are not medical terms, they do explain rare complications with water that you should know.

Symptoms of Dry Drowning

Dry drowning and drowning, in general, can be extremely dangerous if not properly treated. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 1 to 14 years old. Outside of birth defects, drowning kills more young children age 1 to 4 than anything else. This is why it is important to recognize these symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Chest pains
  • Choking
  • Coughing
  • Irritability
  • Extreme tiredness or sleepiness

If you do see any of these symptoms in your child, you must act fast and seek medical attention immediately.

What to Do 

After you recognize your child struggling to breathe once they leave the water, you should seek medical help immediately. While the symptoms can go away on their own, it is always important to get them checked to prevent disaster.

If their symptoms do not go away or worsen, take your child to the emergency room, not their clinic. Your child will need services that many pediatric clinics do not offer. They may be taken to the hospital and remain there until their breathing stabilizes.

Preventing Dry Drowning

The best way to defeat dry drowning and drowning, in general, is prevention. Here are some key tips to ensure your child remains safe:

  • Always monitor your child around any body of water, including pools, oceans, and bathtubs.
  • Make sure a lifeguard is on hand whenever possible.
  • Never let your child swim alone.
  • Make sure your child has received the appropriate swimming lessons.
  • Take an infant CPR class.
  • All individuals who cannot swim or struggle to swim well should wear a Coast Guard approved life vest.

Following these tips can help prevent your child from drowning.

Drowning is an incredibly dangerous and, unfortunately, frequent injury that many children sustain, proving to be deadly in some cases. While many people are aware of conventional, submerged drowning, less are aware of the dangers of dry drowning. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition to prevent tragedy. Contact Tots N Teens Pediatrics to learn more about these threats.