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This Month In Health
  • Drowning on Dry Land
    Stories of dry drowning strike fear in parents. According to social media stories, children who accidentally inhale a little water while swimming and seem fine immediately afterward, suddenly die hours or days later. Are these stories true? Read >>
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Health and Fitness News

Drowning on Dry Land

Is there such a thing?

Stories of dry drowning strike fear in parents. According to social media stories, children who accidentally inhale a little water while swimming and seem fine immediately afterward, suddenly die hours or days later. Are these stories true?

Before believing everything you read on the Internet, you may want to get your facts straight. What is dry drowning and does it really happen? Is it something parents need to fear? Keep reading to find out.

Define Drowning

According to Merriam Webster, drowning is “to suffocate by submersion especially in water.” Medically, there are three types of drowning. There’s fatal drowning that ends in death, nonfatal drowning that causes illness or injury, and nonfatal drowning without any bodily damage. From these definitions, drowning ranges from mild to severe (death). When it comes to drowning, the main concern is lack of oxygen to the brain. Very little water is actually inhaled into the lungs, but that doesn’t lessen the potential damage.

Dry Drowning

In the past, the term “dry drowning” was used to explain the death of drowning victims who died without any water in their lungs, a situation that happens to 1 out of 10 people who die of drowning. Today, folks understand dry drowning to be a potentially fatal type of drowning that occurs when a small amount of water is inhaled. This causes the airways to spasm and close up within a short period of time after swimming.

Death from dry drowning doesn’t happen unexpectedly, as there will be warning signs such as coughing, chest pain, and extreme tiredness.

Secondary Drowning

Secondary drowning is another term that’s been floating around recently. Like dry drowning, secondary drowning strikes fear into the hearts of parents who believe their children could inhale water and surprisingly die of drowning hours or days later. Used interchangeably with dry drowning, secondary drowning is a different condition that is just as rare.

If a child inhales water, it can damage the lining of the lungs, sometimes triggering fluid build-up and inflammation that make it difficult to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is a condition called pneumonitis, and in most cases you won’t miss it.

The condition can take up to 24 hours before showing symptoms. Someone with pneumonitis will experience chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, pale skin, vomiting, or confusion that worsen over time.

In some rare cases, a child may not appear to be struggling or in pain. The important thing is to keep a close eye on your kids and watch for unusual symptoms or behavior.

Dry Treatment

Any time someone is rescued from the water or has a persistent cough, shallow breathing, or extreme tiredness after being in the water, don’t put them to bed. They should be taken to the emergency room for medical evaluation and closely observed for 24 hours. Drowning doesn’t have to be fatal if the right treatment steps are immediately taken.

Prevention

Drowning is the number one preventable cause of death in children. This is why safety precautions are so important when children are around water. Whether in the swimming pool, bathtub, or ocean, kids should be closely supervised. Sign your little ones up for swimming and water safety classes. Until they are strong swimmers, all children should wear life jackets or other floatation devices in and near the water. Additionally, all swimming pools should be enclosed by a fence that’s at least four feet tall with a child-proof lock on the gate. Anyone supervising kids near water sources should keep a phone nearby and know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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