Do you know what dry drowning is or how to prevent it happening to your kids? There are some important facts every parent needs to know before their child enters the water. This is especially true when children are in or near large bodies of water, such as lakes, beaches, and swimming pools. Always be on the lookout for signs of distress when kids are in these situations.
What is Dry Drowning?
Dry drowning is not to be mistaken with pulmonary edema, although at first it may seem the same. Pulmonary edema in kids occurs when too much liquid, like water or chlorine, is swallowed and that liquid irritates the air sacs. The lungs react to this by filling up with fluids. Dry drowning is when something noxious or extremely cold meets the vocal chords. This causes them to close up, which makes it hard to breathe. In dry drowning, the harder the person tries to breathe, the worse it will get.
I recently spoke with EMT Kathrine Lloyd and here is what she had to say about dry drowning in kids:
“It’s not just the vocal cords involved, it’s the muscles of the larynx and vocal cords together that go into spasm (laryngospasm – body’s attempt at self preservation by keeping more water from entering the lungs).”
“Water that is swallowed travels down the esophagus into the stomach. Water that is inhaled enters the trachea and the lungs. If a parent believes that their child has inhaled even a small amount of salt water, they should take them to the hospital whether the child seems okay or not.”
“Our body’s quest to maintain homeostasis dictates that once salt has been in our lungs, our body will push water into our lungs to balance things, which causes drowning once the child is no longer near water. As a rescuer, we call this a ‘parking lot drowning’. Children oftentimes will die within 24 hours of a near drowning in salt water because of this.”
“Most parents believe that once the child is on land and breathing, they have dodged the bullet, which isn’t necessarily the case unfortunately!””
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Drowning
Since dry drowning generally occurs if there has been a near drowning experience, you should be watching for these symptoms already. But also keep in mind that dry drowning needs to be treated and observed by a licensed medical professional. Any of the symptoms below can mean a variety of things. However, all can be serious whether they indicate dry drowning in kids or not. If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms below or any other suspicious symptoms, always seek immediate medical attention.
Continuous or persistent coughing – If your child is coughing uncontrollably for long periods of time, this could be a symptom of dry drowning. It also could signify another health issue that requires immediate medical attention.
Shortness of breath – Trouble breathing or shortness of breath is another telltale sign that something is wrong. This symptom of dry drowning requires prompt medical care.
Chest Pain – If your child is complaining of pain in the chest area, this could be another sign of dry drowning. Kids can experience this for other issues as well. However, any chest pain in kids should be taken seriously, whether it is suspected of being dry drowning or not.
Fatigue or Lethargy – While fatigue or lethargy can be a symptom of a whole host of things, it can be a good indicator of dry drowning as well. A child who is extremely tired or not like his usual self, something could be very wrong.
How to Prevent Dry Drowning in Kids
Proper supervision and safety training is the best prevention for dry drowning. Adults should always be attending any kids in the water. Never stray far from the vicinity of a child who is swimming, wading, or playing in or around water. Know CPR and other first aid and water safety rules and procedures. Educate children on appropriate behavior in the water. Swimming lessons and water safety classes are ideal for all kids and adults before anyone steps into the water.
*IMPORTANT:The author is not a licensed medical professional and the material contained within is intended for informational purposes only. Always seek health advice and care from a licensed medical professional. If you think your child may be a victim of dry drowning or is in another emergency situation, call 911 immediately.