Learning the warning signs of 'dry drowning'

Published: Jun. 19, 2017 at 3:25 PM CDT
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Now that school is out for the summer for many kids ,a lot are cooling off at the pool or in lakes. Earlier this month a 4-year-old boy in Texas died a week after he inhaled some water while swimming.

Doctors and swim experts say he suffered from dry drowning and although it is rare it's something parents should know about.

There are two less obvious, delayed, and unexpected ways to drown.

“Dry drowning refers to somebody who gets some liquid in their oral pharynx which causes spasm of the vocal cords,” said Doctor Scott Westenberg, Emergency Medicine Physician at BayCare Clinic.

Dr. Westenberg said in this case the water doesn't get into your lungs, that is actually called secondary drowning, “which is a case where people swallow a small amount of liquid, it actually does get down to the lungs but they don't have any initial symptoms,” said Westenberg.

The symptoms for both can be anything from feeling tired or having trouble breathing and it could take an hour or more after swimming to feel this way.

“It’s something we want parents just to kind of watch out for, even if they don't think their child has had a near drowning episode,” said Dr. Westenberg.

According to the CDC, dry drowning is rare accounting for only about 1-2% of all drownings but it’s still something swim experts watch for.

“All my lifeguards here at the Kroc Center are trained to know that not all active drownings flail and yelling for help, some are silent drownings as well so it could be just as simple as their airway being underwater,” said Victoria Watska, Aquatic Supervisor at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center in Green Bay.

Watska and Dr. Westenberg said even if your child had a near drowning experience but seems okay it's still a good idea to watch out for the warning signs in the days to come, and remind your kids about water safety.

“Some children don't know that they can't breathe under water, so definitely informing them that they have to close their mouth and hold their breath,” said Watska.