What is Dry Drowning?


Dry drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children of ages one to fourteen years. It is a situation whereby water gets into the airway and down into the lungs. Small amount of water is taken in through the nose or mouth, and it causes a spasm (an involuntary sudden muscle contraction) in the airway which can lead to difficulty in breathing, thereby leading to suffocation.

Dry drowning is a frightening and very real risk that parents should be aware of. A child can seem perfectly fine after getting submerged in water, then he begins to have trouble breathing 24 hours later. It is very important for parents to always monitor their kids anytime they have contact with water, because the onset of dry drowning can be delayed for upwards of five hours or more. It doesn’t always happen immediately. The signs and symptoms of dry drowning actually are not that strikingly obvious. You may not have witnessed your child inhale or swallow water, so it is important to watch for some signs. Some of these signs include; chest pain, difficulty in breathing, change in the child’s behaviour, consistent coughing, excessive sweating and odd physical changes, such as paleness in the eyes and skin.

Parents should be extra vigilant in preventing dry drowning by providing constant supervision around open water. Always supervise your kids when they are swimming; do not allow them to drink fluids quickly. When swimming, children are expected to wear proper swimming equipment such as nose plugs. Ensure that your child does not swim in a pool deeper than four feet. Parents should take appropriate precautions when swimming in pools, lakes or even paddling pools for smaller children. Teach your kids about basic water safety and get them comfortable in the pool with swimming lessons at an early age.

If drowning should occur, the child should be taken to the hospital as soon as possible because the water or fluids need to be removed from the lungs and the child administered oxygen with the assistance of a ventilator or respirator. However, before you get to the hospital you can administer mouth to mouth respiration. Additional help may be obtained by placing a moderate weight on the child’s back. The object can assist in expelling the water from the lungs. The child should be in supine position. You can also press the victim’s belly, but make sure that you do not press too hard.

Bear in mind that drowning does not happen instantaneously and it can happen silently. A child can appear perfectly normal. It is very important for parents to be aware of dry drowning. By being aware, you will more likely reduce the risk of tragic incident happening.


By: Mercy Kukah


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