Dry Drowning, Facts, Prevention & When to Go to the ER
Dry Drowning: Preventing Another Tragedy
Back in 2017, the tragic death of a 4-year-old in Texas, shocked us all, when doctors told the parents they suspected the child had died from dry drowning a week after going on a family vacation. Source: CNN. The medical staff at Altus Emergency Centers extends their condolences to the family of Frankie Delgado. Since then, many parents learned of this potentially fatal emergency, its warning signs and symptoms and were able to help save the lives of their children by getting them to emergency care early on.
Image Source: nydailynews.com
While rare, we would like to take this opportunity to remind parents about the dangers and prevention of dry and secondary drowning to prevent another tragedy.
What is Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning?
Both dry drowning and secondary or delayed drowning, occur when a child breathes or inhales water. This can happen in a pool, the ocean, a river, or even in the bathtub.
These submersion injuries can affect both adults and children, however, children are more susceptible because of their size.
The terms dry drowning and secondary drowning, are commonly used interchangeably, but they are in fact very different conditions.
Occurs when the individual takes in a small amount of water through their mouth or nose. This water does not reach the lungs, instead, once it reaches the back of the throat, it causes the vocal cords to spasm and close, causing the airways to shut off, making it hard to breathe. The symptoms of dry-drowning usually happen immediately after the incident in the water.
In this type of incident, the airways do not close themselves up, but rather open, letting water into the lungs. Once there, liquid can build up causing inflammation and swelling, making it difficult for the body to get enough oxygen; this condition is known as pulmonary edema. Symptoms of secondary drowning may take between 1 and 24 hours to manifest.
Symptoms of Dry Drowning
Know the Warning Signs
Both conditions share many of the same symptoms, the main difference is how fast they manifest. Typical signs of either incident include:
- Trouble Breathing
- Sleepiness or unusual drop in the child’s activity level
- Chest Pain
- Abnormal irritability
These types of submersion injuries are rare, and there is no cause for parents to panic every time the child comes in contact with a body of water. According to a 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal the percentage of submersion incidents which result in either dry or secondary drowning is between 2% and 5%.
Having said that, parents who spot any of the above symptoms in their child after it has spent time in the water should immediately rush to any of Altus Emergency Centers for evaluation and treatment.
Most of the time, symptoms can be mild and improve on their own, however, there is no way of telling if this this will happen, and because the symptoms can progress rapidly and become life-threatening, it is better to have medical attention sooner rather than later.
How to Prevent Dry Drowning
Prevention Submersion Injuries
Prevention is always the goal, these recommendations will not only prevent dry or secondary drowning, but any type of submersion incident.
- Swimming Lessons: Children who are comfortable in and around water are less likely to panic and breathe or inhale water. The recommended age to start swimming lessons is 4-years.
- Educate: Teach your child to close their mouth when jumping or diving into a pool to avoid water getting in and causing spasms.
- Beware of extremely cold water: Instruct your child not to jump or dive into a pool if, the water is extremely cold, the natural response will be to gasp due to the temperature increasing the chances of inhalation. Instead teach them to gradually enter the cold water.
- Keep a close eye: Incidents can happen in a matter of seconds, never leave your child in a body of water, even if it is the bathtub alone for any reason. Children should always wear flotation devices on boats, or when they are learning to swim.
- Drugs and Alcohol: Parents of teenagers should ensure their children know and understand the danger involved in swimming under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Knowledge Saves Lives
There is Hope
A toddler from Colorado is alive today because of Frankie Delgado’s story. Gio, a 2 year old from Colorado demonstrated symptoms of dry drowning and his father, Garon Vega rushed him to an emergency room. Vega had heard about Frankie’s dry drowning tragedy and was able to recognize similar symptoms after a visit to a community pool.
“The X-rays did show that he had a significant amount of water in his lungs, and that it was a good thing that we brought him in because if we hadn’t have, he wouldn’t have made it through the night,” said Vega. – Source: Fox6Now. Today, Vega thanks the parents of Frankie Delgado for creating awareness as their story saved his son’s life.
If it Happens, We Can Help
At Altus Emergency Centers, we are strong advocates of education and prevention, but, we also understand that there will be accidents that are unavoidable, and that is the reason our expertly trained staff is available 24/7.