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Dry & Secondary Drowning – Symptoms & Prevention

Dry Drowning:

Dry drowning is a rare form of drowning which occurs after a someone breathes in water, usually during a struggle such as a near-drowning. This water causes the muscles in the airway to spasm. This person, often a child, who just had a close call in the water can seem otherwise normal as they walk around. This is however very rare and only results in no more than 2% of drowning cases annually.

Secondary Drowning:

In Secondary Drowning, the person usually consumes water (as opposed to breathing it in). The water then builds up in the lungs which causes trouble breathing. It too amounts to no more than 2% of annual drownings.

Symptoms to Watch For:

While Dry and Secondary Drownings are rare, it is still important to recognize the symptoms following a near-drowning incident. The three warning signs parents must look for are:

  1. Difficulty breathing
  2. Behavior changes
  3. Extreme tiredness

All these three signs of dry drowning are due to a reduced flow of oxygen to the brain. Doctors advise monitoring your children thoroughly after water exposure, looking for the above symptoms.

To clarify, difficulty breathing is outside of the norm related to asthma or allergies and extreme tiredness is beyond what is caused by spending lots of time in the water and the sun.

What to Do:

Remaining vigilant at least for a day after a close call in water, even if your child appears normal with no symptoms at all is the best thing you can do. If you ever suspect your child has any of the signs of dry drowning, or the child begins to exhibit any unusual behavioral or respiratory symptoms, it is urgent that you seek medical attention immediately and that your child is monitored for the next 24 hours.