5 things you should know about dry and secondary drowning

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“It might not cause any effects immediately, but [secondary drowning] can cause edema or swelling of the lungs in a delayed fashion.”

When we hear the word “drowning,” what comes into our minds are images of pools and beaches and lakes and bodies of water in general, both artificial and otherwise.

But did you know that drowning can also occur on dry land? This kind of drowning is two-fold: one is called dry drowning and the other secondary drowning.

The Huffington Post gives the five crucial things you need to know about them.

1. They occur out of the water

According to Mark Zonfrillo, a pediatric emergency physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, both dry and secondary drowning are types of drowning in that occur after a child has been pulled out of the water.

“In dry drowning, water is swallowed, but doesn’t enter the lungs. It does, however, enter the airway, causing it to spasm, which can lead to difficulty breathing and even suffocation.”

On the other hand, secondary drowning occurs when water does enter the lungs, which leads to life-threatening respiratory issues.

2. It’s important to be watchful for hours

With dry drowning, it happens minutes after a child has been exposed to water. Secondary drowning, however, may not show signs for hours, or even up to a day in rare cases.

“It might not cause any effects immediately, but [secondary drowning] can cause edema or swelling of the lungs in a delayed fashion,” Dr. Mark said.

5 Things You Should Know About Dry and Secondary Drowning

3. Look for coughing and fatigue

Dr. Vincenzo Maniaci, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida said: “The biggest things to look at are the level of activity, trouble breathing and coughing.”

Dr. Mark echoed this statement. If your child is suddenly sleepy and that seems unusual for the level of activity they had, it usually means you should seek medical attention.

He also said that time is important when it comes to treating dry and secondary drowning. “Doctors will want to check and continuously monitor vital signs, get a chest X-ray and possibly provide acute interventions, like administering oxygen.”

4. Thankfully, both types of drowning are relatively uncommon

“These types of drowning only compose about 1 to 2 percent of all drowning incidents,” Dr. Mark said. “They’re equally scary, but extremely rare.”

5. There’s actually a lot parents can do

Dr. Mark said parents should constantly supervise their children when they’re near open water.

“Know exactly who is watching [him or her],” he said. “Make sure you understand the child’s swimming skills, and keep in mind that drowning happens very quickly and not how it’s usually portrayed in the media—there’s not a lot of splashing, it happens very silently.”

If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them with us!