Dry drowning: how to save your child from this silent killer

Dry drowning: how to save your child from this silent killer

This quick-thinking dad saved his tot from dry drowning, after recognising symptoms from a recent tragedy. Here're the signs of dry drowning.

We imagine drowning to happen in a rapid blur — the shock of seeing your child suddenly thrashing in the water, the frantic swim to get to them before their head goes under. If we manage to get them to shore, we imagine, their lives will be saved.

Terrifyingly, this isn’t always the case. Saved from near death, young children might still be threatened by dry drowning — an unseen threat whose effects only manifest hours or even days later.

“He took a breath but never exhaled”

During a family swimming trip to Texas City Dike, 4-year-old Frankie was knocked over by a wave from a distant ship. His head went under, dad Francisco Delgado Jr. told CNN, but a family friend swiftly scooped him up.

The dauntless toddler assured his parents he was okay. “He had fun the rest of the day,” Francisco said. “I never thought nothing of it.”

Dry drowning: how to save your child from this silent killer

Frankie with his father Francisco. (Image Credit: The Independent)

When little Frankie began to vomit and have diarrhea the next day, his parents weren’t overly worried — the toddler had had a stomach bug with similar symptoms before. They decided to treat him at home.

But the symptoms persisted throughout the week. Then one night, Frankie woke complaining of shoulder pain.

“I love my son so much. I’m always touching him, and I’m always talking to him when he’s sleeping, and all of a sudden he just woke up,” Delgado told CNN.

“He looked at me, and he just rolled his eyes back and took a deep breath. I was like ‘Frankie, what’s wrong,’ and I got up real quick, and I saw that he took a breath but never exhaled.”

Dry drowning: how to save your child from this silent killer

(Image Credit: KHOU.com. Courtesy of family)

Frankie was rushed to hospital. For more than an hour, paramedics tried to resuscitate him. Frankie’s mum, Tara, recalled her terror to ABC13: “I could see him lying there. They were still working on him. I’m screaming, ‘Let me just touch my baby. Maybe he needs his mama’s touch.'”

Sadly, medical staff were unable to revive little Frankie. Water was found in his lungs and around his heart, doctors told his parents, and the probable cause of death was dry drowning. 

What is dry drowning?

Dry drowning occurs when your child gets water into their lungs, according to WebMD. This may result from near-drowning incidents — but not always, as little Frankie’s tragedy shows.

Simply getting water in their mouths and inhaling can cause dry drowning. And because of their small size, children are far more vulnerable to dry drowning than adults. 

swim diapers, baby, toddler, infant, seaside, play

Water left in the lungs can cause swelling and prevent oxygen from getting to the blood, Dr Juan Fitz from the American College of Emergency Physicians told CNN. This can lead to breathing trouble and cardiac arrest.

The terrifying thing about dry drowning is that it’s not immediate — your child may appear largely alright after leaving the water. Symptoms only appear between 1-24 hours later and may go unrecognised.

Signs that parents can look out for

The good news is that dry drowning tragedies can be prevented in time — if you know what to look out for. So soon after his tragic passing, little Frankie’s story has already saved another tot’s life.

Colorado dad Garon Vega had a shock of recognition while reading about Frankie’s tragedy on the news. The symptoms that Frankie had suffered sounded exactly like those his own two-year-old, Gio, was going through after a pool trip.

Dry drowning: how to save your child from this silent killer

The Vega family. (Image Credit: 9 News)

The quick-thinking dad acted immediately, reported The Independent. He took his son for a hospital X-ray, which confirmed that the tot had fluid in his lungs. Doctors said that little Gio wouldn’t have survived the night, had it not been for the bittersweet miracle of learning from Frankie’s tragedy. 

“I feel like I needed to reach out to the parents of little Frankie and tell them, I don’t know how to word it, but their little boy saved our little boy’s life,” the grateful dad told ABC 13. 

Hopefully, more families can be saved from experiencing the pain that Frankie’s parents had to suffer. These are some signs of dry drowning that you can look out for, according to experts from WebMD and 6abc:

  • Vomiting
  • Consistent coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing trouble
  • Extreme sleepiness or lethargy
  • Forgetfulness

If your child shows these symptoms or any other unusual signs after leaving the water, do take them to a medical professional immediately. With the weather getting hotter lately, you and your family might be thinking of hitting the pool or beach — let’s keep our little ones safe!

ALSO READ: 9 safe ways to take your baby swimming

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Jolene Hee

app info
get app banner