Dry Drowning ( Second Drowning)

Dry drowning (second drowning) is life threatening. If you spend time in a pool, sea or lake in the summer, it’s wise to know the signs and symptoms. You can minimize the risk of drowning by doing your best to prevent water accidents. Children should wear swimming apparatus, have a boat in the pool and have a four-sided fence around the pool so they are never left alone in the water.

Inhalation is like real drowning, but unlike dry drowning, the water reaches the lungs. The inhalation of water, also called aspirations, is demonstrated at the moment when it happens during small coughing fits and wheezing. A small amount of water in the lungs causes an excessive cough, which worsens over the next few hours.

This may sound unpleasant, but bear in mind that children do not always suffer from dry drowning, and it is exceedingly rare. The treatment is the same, regardless of whether a small quantity of water (wet) or not (dry) is present.

Make sure to watch your child/ren (or adult or senior) if they show symptoms of dry drowning or secondary drowning. If any of the symptoms of secondary drowning or dry drowning appear or if its behavior appears out of the way, the American College of Emergency Physicians recommends taking him or her to the local emergency room. If your child is drowning, the experience of getting water into the lungs (for example, for a few seconds in the pool, coughing or struggling to breathe for a minute) and staying awake for the next few days is more a sign of secondary drowning than dry drowning.

When the affected child sinks into the water, they gasp and coughs a little and seems to be fine for a while. Then a small amount of water in her airways triggers an inflammatory reaction that causes her lungs to fill with fluid, called pulmonary edema, and symptoms do not appear for hours. Secondary drowning can happen anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to three days after the water reaches the lungs. Knowing CPR and what to do in an emergency can help you with pool safety.

When children or adults inhale small streams of water from a pool, lake or ocean, the water can irritate the lungs and cause swelling. If there is too little water in the lungs, secondary drowning can occur because the water is sufficient to impede the ability of the lungs to supply oxygen to the bloodstream. Water that irritates the lungs can cause them to fill up with fluid known as pulmonary edema, which can make breathing difficult.

Fatal drowning, when the lungs are filled with water, when a person sinks into the water, results in death. In the case of non-fatal drowning, a child can survive for a short time while being submerged in the water. This type of drowning is often referred to as secondary drowning, but the medical community is trying to move away from the concept of “secondary drowning” because it is more a delayed drowning.

In a swimming pool or a bathtub, water in the lungs can occur, but very little water is required to cause secondary drowning. The reason for the secondary drowning is not known, but the problems and symptoms have a gradual connection with drowning, and the incident can only be noticed too late.

Dry drowning has been used in many media reports as a synonym for secondary drowning when it comes to the past, and we have seen how it has been used to describe the lack of water in the lungs of people who have died from drowning. Dry drowning and the idea that children can suffer life-threatening damage through water or contact with water entering their lungs is a myth.

Past Media:

The child, who died in 2018 from what was believed to be dry drowning, suffered aspiration pneumonia after water poured out of his lungs while playing in the pool. Another death in 2017 found that a child had a heart infection, but the death was not related to the fact that the child went swimming. There are a lot of concerns about dry drowning but remember that drowning is an event that a child or adult goes through after being submerged in water.

Here are some signs your child is in distress or drowning:

  • Head low in the water with the mouth at or below water level. (Very young babies may keep their head down or not move their heads at all.)
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Glassy or empty-looking eyes
  • Eyes wide open or shut tightly
  • Hair hanging over forehead or eyes
  • Body in a near-vertical position, with little or no leg movement
  • Attempting to swim but making little or no forward progress
  • Gasping or hyperventilating
  • Near (or at) the bottom of the water
  • Attempting to roll over onto his back

Secondary drowning symptoms and signs

The following are the symptoms of secondary or delayed drowning:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Labored breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion, lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Difficulty talking
  • Confusion or disorientation

The symptoms of dry drowning are very similar to those of secondary or delayed drowning and include:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Labored or high-pitched breathing
  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion, lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Difficulty talking
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Bluish skin color

You should always take the child/ren or adult straight to the emergency room if you feel like you are noticing any of these symptoms.

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