Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in the United States, and children are particularly vulnerable. As would be expected, the rate of drownings increases in the summer months when more people are spending their leisure time near the water. However, parents should be vigilant all the time, because children left unattended near any water, including tubs and sinks, at any time of the year, are at risk of accidents. And it does not take a lot of water in the lungs to cause problems. While not an official medical term, “Dry Drowning” refers to a spasm that can occur in the airway as a result of aspirating a small amount of water. The spasm can cause the airway to close up, restricting the flow of oxygen and creating a medical emergency. This is a rare occurrence and parents should not be on edge, however, any drowning incident, even if the victim appears fine, should be followed by a visit to the emergency room for a careful assessment.
What Exactly is Dry Drowning?
The term “dry drowning” was originally coined to describe the lungs of drowning victims that were found to have no water in them. When a small amount of water is aspirated, it can cause a spasm in the airway, creating a situation much like a severe asthma attack or obstruction from a foreign object. If left untreated, the lungs become inflamed and can become filled with fluid, causing respiratory distress, and ultimately depriving the brain and other vital organs of oxygen. The symptoms of dry drowning include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, consistent coughing, sleepiness, vomiting or a change in normal behavior. These symptoms will usually occur very shortly after getting out of the water, as compared to secondary drowning, which may occur up to 24 hours after the aspiration of water and results from damage to lung tissue and inflammation of the lungs. While both dry drowning and secondary drowning are rare occurrences, the symptoms of both are similar, and they both require emergency medical treatment.
What to Do If You Suspect Dry Drowning?
First of all, any drowning episode should be taken seriously. Victims should be taken to the emergency room to be evaluated and to receive necessary treatments. Watch the victim closely for any of the above mentioned symptoms, and if the victim is having trouble breathing, 911 should be called immediately to ensure prompt treatment. Be ready to begin CPR if necessary.
Prevention is Key
On the topic of dry drowning, or secondary drowning, the take home point is that the key word is “drowning”, which is the third most common cause of accidental death in the United States. Those most at risk are children, people who cannot swim or that overestimate their swimming abilities, individuals who take unnecessary risks or use alcohol or drugs, people prone to seizures, and children with developmental disorders. Inadequate adult supervision or lack of safety equipment also plays a role in the incidence of drownings. Taking adequate safety precautions can make a difference. Adult supervision for children at all times is extremely important; this includes near toilets, buckets, and bath tubs, as well as all pools and bodies of water. It is also recommended that no one swim alone. Children should have swimming lessons and they should have refresher courses at the beginning of each summer. They should also be outfitted with proper flotation devices in the water and on boats. It is also important to have safety fences installed around the perimeter of all pools. Finally, everyone should be CPR certified. Accidents happen, and being prepared to administer emergency aid can save someone’s life.
If you have any questions about dry drowning, or drowning prevention, contact one of our highly trained, board certified medical staff at Patient Care Now Urgent Care. For more information call our Fairless Hills Urgent Care Center at (267) 202-6433 today.