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What is Dry Drowning?

Posted On 08/22/18

As summer heats up in Arizona, families are looking for any way to beat the heat. As a result, area pools and lakes are filled with people looking to cool off and enjoy what’s left of the season. Around this time of year, we hear stories about people, primarily children, suffering from “dry drowning”. What does this term mean, and should you be concerned? Here’s what to watch out for – and how to prevent dry drowning from happening to your child.

Dry Drowning Explained

Dry drowning occurs when a child inhales water through the nose or mouth. This can cause a spasm in the airway that leads to difficulty breathing. This is known as “dry” drowning because no water enters the lungs during this process. Rather, the vocal cords reflexively close. Sometimes, they do not relax, which prevents air from entering the lungs. This can be fatal.

It can sound scary, and all parents should be concerned about anything that could pose a danger to their little one’s health. First, it’s important to know that dry drowning is rare. In fact, your child is more likely to experience harm from drowning by submersion than he or she is dry drowning. Unfortunately, drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of 4. According to the Arizona Child Fatality Review, 60% of unintentional deaths in children between the ages of 1 and 4 are related to submersion drowning.

Still, you should be aware of the dangers that dry drowning can pose. Inhaling water through the mouth or nose can prove dangerous, even fatal, so knowing the warning signs and how to prevent dry drowning is essential.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Drowning?

If your child is playing in water and seems to take in a large volume of fluid, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Persistent, hacking cough
  • Sleepiness or lethargy
  • Choking noises
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Blue tinge to the lips or fingernails

If you notice any of these symptoms, call emergency medical services immediately. If your child loses consciousness, begin CPR.

How to Prevent Drowning

Children swallow or inhale water from time to time, and most of the time it leads to nothing serious. However, you should always be ready for the possibility that dry drowning can occur. This is no reason to keep your child indoors all summer, but it does require some precautionary measures on your part. The best way to address any kind of drowning is through adequate prevention strategies. Take the following precautions each time your child visits a pool, lake, or other body of water:

  • Choose a pool monitor. Make sure you or someone you trust is watching your child at all times as they swim. Your designated child-watcher should be sober.
  • Teach your children how to swim, as it’s a valuable life skill that will serve them well. If your child is not a strong swimmer, ensure he or she wears a USCG-approved life vest while swimming.
  • Choose to swim at pools and beaches monitored by professionally certified lifeguards whenever possible.
  • To protect other children, enclose your own pool with a high fence and a locking, self-latching gate.
  • Talk to your kids about basic water safety and have them alert you if they’re tired or not feeling well.

Dry drowning is not a common phenomenon, but it can happen to anyone. The best way to address dry drowning or any other type of drowning is by being prepared. Follow these prevention strategies and be aware of the symptoms of dry drowning, so you can intervene effectively if it becomes necessary. If you have questions or have had a loved one suffer from dry drowning due to another’s negligence in Arizona, don’t hesitate to call the Phoenix swimming pool injury lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A.