What Is Dry Drowning, And How Can You Keep Your Child Safe?

Parents know to keep a close eye on young children while they're swimming. But looking for unusual signs or symptoms after they get out of the water may be just as important.

Dry Drowning Though rare, dry drowning can be dangerous.

Guest post by Tiffany Ling, Family Nurse Practitioner, Fairview Clinics - Andover 

Parents know to keep a close eye on young children while they're swimming. But looking for unusual signs or symptoms after they get out of the water may be just as important.

"Dry drowning" is a phenomenon that can occur right after swimming or sometimes hours after–more often referred to as secondary drowning. It's caused by inhaling water through the nose or mouth, which can cause the airway to spasm, close up and impact breathing. 

While incidents of dry drowning are incredibly rare, they can be prevented with a few simple safety steps.

What are the signs?

Trouble breathing, persistent coughing, sleepiness, irritability, chest pain, vomiting are all signs of dry drowning. If you notice these symptoms, bring your child to a medical care provider immediately. There they will determine if his or her airway is blocked, oxygen is low or there is water in his or her lungs.

Sometimes symptoms are mild and improve over time, but it is important to get checked out as a precautionary measure. If symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the hospital emergency room.

How do you prevent it?

Two words: Water safety. This includes teaching your kids to swim, never allowing them to swim alone, monitoring them closely at all times in water and wearing flotation devices as appropriate.

Although it's scary, dry drowning is very rare. Enforcing safe swimming behavior, knowing the signs of dry drowning, and seeking immediate medical care if you notice them will help keep your child safe.

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