Many of us are sure that the risk of drowning completely vanishes when our children are out of the water. How can dry drowning even exist? Unfortunately, it is a real condition that can even be fatal. Though very rare, it is important to understand the warning signs and ways to prevent it, so you can keep your children safe. Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about dry drowning and secondary drowning.

As more kids head to the pool, lakes and oceans in the summer, parents should be extra cautious because children don’t need to be in water to die of drowning. In fact, dry drowning can occur later if a child experiences a near-drowning incident. When left untreated, it can lead to respiratory problems and brain injury. In rare cases, it can even be fatal.

child drowning

What Is Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning refers to a situation when you accidentally take a small amount of water into the airway, causing spasms. As a result, you have difficulties breathing and cannot get enough oxygen. Dry drowning happens right after water ingestion.

Unlike drowning in water, dry drowning doesn’t involve lungs. When a person breathes in water, vocal cords react in spasms and close up even if the person has already left the pool or lake. His airways are shut off and breathing is nearly impossible.

What Is Secondary Drowning?

Secondary drowning is not the same as dry drowning. When a person ingests water, it enters the lungs so that breathing becomes difficult. As a result, lungs become swollen and can’t get enough oxygen. It can result in cardiac arrest or even be fatal. Unlike dry drowning, this condition can take up to 24 hours to develop.

Symptoms of Dry And Secondary Drowning

If your child has been swimming and you notice he/she is:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Turning blue
  • Behaves differently
  • Has diarrhea
  • Has difficulties speaking
  • Experiences drop in energy levels

You should go to the hospital. Any of these can indicate that the brain can’t get enough oxygen. However, both dry and secondary drowning can be treated if you get medical help. As a parent, you should keep an eye on your child 24 hours after the problems in the water.

child in hospital

How To Prevent Dry And Secondary Drowning

The most important thing you can do is to prevent dry drowning and secondary drowning from happening. Here are a few simple steps to take:

  • Make sure to teach kids to swim properly;
  • Watch your children when they are in water. It takes seconds to take in enough water, so be aware;
  • Teach kids to keep their mouths closed when swimming;
  • Attend safety classes with children. There are special programs available for parents with kids from 6 months to 3 years of age;
  • Learn the symptoms. If you see any of them in your child, seek medical help immediately.

Teaching children to swim

How To Treat Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning

There are no medications for these types of drowning, so your child will get supportive care at the healthcare facility. The doctor will make sure the airways are clear and nothing restricts the breathing. The doctor will also monitor oxygen levels. If there is something more serious, the child may be given a breathing tube.

As WebMD states, dry and secondary drowning are very rare – only 2% of all drowning accidents – but it is still worth knowing about it and how to prevent it.