Dry Drowning: Symptoms parents should know, preventative measures

Dry Drowning: Symptoms parents should know, preventative measures

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The death of a 4-year-old Texas boy suspected of dying from dry-drowning has raised national attention to a rare form of drowning.

According to CNN, Frankie Delgado was playing during Memorial Day weekend in water that was about knee deep. His family said the child was knocked over by a wave and he went underwater.

His family said he was fine the rest of the day, but then he started getting sick the following night - vomiting and having diarrhea. The family thought he had the stomach bug and treated him at home without taking him to the doctor.

Frankie woke up one night and said his shoulder hurt and that's when the family decided they would take him to the doctor the next morning, but Frankie died that night.

According to Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, DO, with the American Osteopathic Association, the danger of a child suffering from dry drowning or secondary drowning can happen up to 24 hours after the child gets out of the pool or ocean.

Dry drowning vs Secondary drowning

There is a difference between dry drowning and secondary drowning, although both can still be fatal.

According to Dr. Mitchell, dry drowning happens when water causes a spasm in the airway. The spasm causes the child's airway to close up and it causes problems with the child's breathing. Dr. Mitchell said dry drowning normally happens immediately after the child has been in the water.

Secondary drowning results from the child actually taking water into the lungs. However, when water builds up over time the result is the same as dry drowning- the child has problems breathing.

Secondary drowning can happen several hours, up to 24, after inhaling the water.

Parents should be especially cautious if the child inhaled a lot of water while swimming or had a near-drowning experience while in the pool or ocean.

Signs of dry drowning and secondary drowning

Dr. Mitchell said there are six signs parents need to watch for in their child after a swimming event or water event:

- Trouble breathing
- Coughing
- Sleepiness or a drop in energy level
- Irritability
- Chest pain
- Vomiting

According to Dr. Mitchell, parents should always pay attention to their child after the child has been in the water and watch them closely while they're in the water. Don't just assume the child is exhausted from swimming a long time.

How can it be prevented

Ultimately the goal of any parent is to prevent anything from going wrong or happening to a child, especially in or near the water.

The American Osteopathic Association advises parents to:

- Teach water safety to your children, including no diving in shallow water
- Help your children learn to swim
- Properly guard and protect the swimming pool at all times
- Warn teenagers and stop, if possible, teens from swimming under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Don't let children swim alone
- Don't let children 'rough play' such as head dunking in or around the water

You should always take your child to the emergency room if something feels wrong or if the child has experienced a near-drowning episode in order to get the child checked out by professionals.

WebMD suggests if your child struggles in the water, has a near drowning experience, or has any kind of problems in the water then a parent should be extra cautious and aware of changes in the child or the presence of symptoms of dry drowning or secondary drowning.

For more information on dry or secondary drowning

Dr. James Orlowski, MD, information on WebMD

American Osteopathic Association

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