DRY DROWNING! – How To Recognize It and How To Prevent It!!
One of the most terrifying things for me as a parent, in relation to summer and swimming is dry drowning. I am familiar with drowning and the dangers that may occur while our little ones are swimming or just being in water. Yet, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as dry drowning.
I’ve found out about it recently while watching a movie. There was a situation where the parents lost their 4 year old boy, as a consequence of dry drowning. As a mother, this shook me to the bone!! I mean the boy was just tired when they got home, and there were no symptoms. Suddenly he starts coughing, does not feel well, complains that he has a stomach ache and by the time they got to the hospital, there was nothing more to be done :(.
Therefore, I did some research to inform myself better and to become more conscious about it. Now here I am, sharing some of the information about what it is, what are the symptoms, and what can and shall we do as parents in order to prevent it.
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First we need to understand what exactly is dry drowning, since the name can be a bit confusing. Dry drowning has nothing to do with sand or heat, it is connected to water.
Drowning from fluid in the lungs that occurs not during submersion in water, but up to 24 hours after swimming or bathing, defines secondary drowning. If the child inhales water into the lungs, the vocal cords can spasm. The drowning is defined ‘dry’ because it occurs out of the water.
Dry drowning can happen when the child is struggling to swim, goes underwater, is splashed in the face, or any other situation when the water gets caught in the child airways entering through the mouth or nose. The vocal cords then begin to spasm from inflammation, swell and close up after you’ve already left the pool or the beach. Water in the lungs can cause swelling that forces the airways to close shut, making it impossible to breath.
The most important thing is to prevent the occurring of dry or secondary drowning. The key to prevention is to always have someone watching your child while in water (this is valid for the bathtub too). Kids are incredibly dynamic. They do million things in just a minute! It is easy to miss something if you are not paying close attention. Proper fencing around swimming pool is one of the precautions to be taken, too. Another thing you can do is to give your kid swimming lessons. That way, they will know that they should keep their mouth closed and above the water, and to spit out any water. If they know how to swim, the odds for dry drowning will be minimal. If you take them on boat, you should always make them wear a life jacket. In addition, you or your spouse should know CPR.
Thanks to the media, we all believe that the signs of a person drowning are splashing and bobbing up and down trying to catch a breath, while screaming for help. In reality, drowning can happen very silently. While drowning, people can extend their arms pushing against the water and trying to keep their heads up, but that won’t lead to a dramatic splashing. Even the screaming part might be missing, if the person has swallowed water, the coughing won’t let him/her make a loud voice.
Some of the warning signs that someone is in danger are:
– Mouth at water level or just below it;
– Head tilted back as the person tries to float;
– Glassy or closed eyes.
According to the experts, a child can drown within seconds, often before anyone can notice that the child has gone underwater.
Dry drowning symptoms
If you suspect dry drowning or your child had some experience with swallowing water, you should watch out for these symptoms:
-Persistent coughing like bad croup
-Difficulty breathing – shallow, heavy, fast breathing, trying to catch their breath, flared nostrils
-Chest or stomach pain
-Acting extremely tired and sleepy
-Change in behavior – irritability, lethargic, forgetful
-Change in responsiveness and awareness
-Change in lips and finger color due to the lack of oxygen.
The scariest thing about dry drowning is timing. It can happen up to 24 hours after a water event.
Therefore, if you notice any of these signs, rush to the hospital! Listen to your instincts if something is telling you that there is something wrong with your little one. Take them to the ER. Treatments include obtaining a chest X-ray, having an IV and being monitored for signs of respiratory distress.
In the end, I would like to add that the dry drowning is very rare. You shouldn’t be running to the doctors whenever you come from a pool or the beach.
If the kid chokes or sputters after going under water but seems fine, he/she doesn’t need to go to the hospital. But, if several hours later he/she starts breathing faster and is finding it harder to breathe, and starts coughing a lot, then you should be taking him/her to the hospital. Also, children with asthma are more prone to dry drowning, so their parents shall be more attentive.
I hope I have given you a good insight without making you paranoid whenever your child is near water. Teach them how to swim as soon as they can, and stay attentive watching them whenever they are in water.
Author: Daniela Miovska
My Quiet Spot
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