Two weeks ago, I read a horrible story of a 4-year old who lost his life to dry drowning in Texas. Frankie Delgado was the same age as my daughter, when he was playing in knee-deep water and was accidentally knocked over by a wave and his head went under the water. He was under for mere seconds, but that was all it took for him to inhale a large amount of water, unbeknownst to his parents. Frankie didn’t feel sick right away, and in fact he continued playing the rest of the day with his family. It wasn’t until later that night that he began to show flu-like symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea. His parents did not connect that those symptoms were related in any way to Frankie’s tumble in the water and unfortunately, he died a week later from what physicians believe was a case of dry drowning.
It’s only in recent years that parents have heard the terms “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning” circulating the Internet. We all know and recognize the dangers of traditional water drowning, but what do you know about dry drowning?
Here’s What You Need To Know
1. Dry drowning is also referred to as “secondary drowning,” but they are actually two different things.
Dry drowning is when water, usually a small amount, is inhaled through the mouth or nose and causes a spasm in the airway which makes it difficult to breath. Dry drowning symptoms are apparent pretty quickly after the inhalation of water. Secondary drowning is when a large amount of water actually reaches the lungs and the body then cannot transfer oxygen into carbon dioxide because the water causes inflammation in the lungs. Secondary drowning symptoms can take time to become apparent, sometimes several hours.
2. It only takes seconds for enough water to become inhaled and lead to dry or secondary drowning.
A quick tumble was all it took for Frankie Delgado to consume too much water, and the same can be said for any slip in the pool or bathtub where your child’s face and mouth are under water. Do not disregard the few seconds they could have inhaled water as too small, and make sure you know the symptoms for dry drowning.
3. Know the symptoms of dry drowning
Once you’ve safely pulled your child from the water, you need to continue monitoring their activity at least through the end of the day. Take seriously any of the following symptoms, should they present in your child:
- Sudden fatigue which could indicate the body is not getting enough oxygen in the blood due to water in the lungs
- Labored Breathing
- Chest Pain
4. Do not hesitate in seeking medical attention
ANY change in your child after a fall in the pool or bathtub should be cause for concern. In fact, I’d even venture to say it’s a good idea to contact your pediatrician even in the event you don’t notice anything right away. The fact that your child spent any amount of time under water should be taken seriously. If your child demonstrates any dry drowning symptoms, take them to the doctor or emergency room immediately.
Here’s How You Can Prevent Dry Drowning
1. Teach your child to swim.
Swimming lessons are the simplest and easiest way to prevent your child from any type of drowning. Not only will your child learn how to swim to safety and remove themselves from the pool, they will learn proper breathing techniques (i.e. how not to inhale water while in the pool) and a proper respect for water. We have 6 other reasons we believe in swimming lessons right over here.
2. Be vigilant at the pool.
It’s temping to catch up on social media, chat with friends or get distracted by a myriad of other things while at the pool, but your child’s life could depend on your attention. Especially with young children, make sure you are always present in the pool. Do not place their safety in the hands of other people or a floating device. Put away your phone- no Instagram photo is worth the price of a dry drowning.
3. Establish a “hands to yourself” policy with kids
Kids like to roughhouse, we know, but wrestling at the pool can be deadly. Dunking heads or holding kids under the water is dangerous and should never be done with young children. Talk to your kids about keeping their hands to themselves- no tugging, pushing, pulling or dunking other children- ever.
4. Ensure proper barriers for pools are in place
Whether it’s your own pool, a family member’s or your child’s best friends home- always make sure the pool is properly barricaded to prevent accidental drowning. Never trust another person to watch your child if there is a pool in the backyard and there are no gates or anti-drowning covers. MANY accidents happen every year because a child wanders off and falls in the pool. Don’t let that happen to your family! Make sure you dump out water from water tables and small plastic pools when you’re done playing with them to further prevent accidents.