How to spot symptoms of dry and delayed drowning

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Drowning_child_warningSwallowing even small amount of water into your lungs is serious, children have been known to have died up to 24 hours after getting water into their system. There might be some differentiation between ‘dry’ and ‘delayed’ drowning, but the symptoms are in both cases tiredness, coughing, paleness and trouble with breathing, and the prevention measures to keep a close eye on people if these symptoms occur. Read more here and here, via SCAQ

Symptoms and prevention from eHow:

  1. The first step in preventing a dry drowning episode is close observation. Observing the person immediately following the negative incident or accident with water is crucial. Remember, dry drowning need only a small amount of water or liquid, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be from a pool.
  2. Monitor the person’s breathing. Difficulty breathing, painful breathing or shallow breathing are all red flags that may indicate a person is at risk for a dry drowning episode. Count the number of respirations for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. Over 20 respirations per minute could be a red flag for dry drowning.
  3. Check for persistent cough, pain in chest and mood or mental status change. Lethargy or increased agitation when lying flat, sweaty skin or color changes such as pale, or blue/grayish color are signs of poorly oxygenated blood. Remember, children can not compensate for very long like adults. They tend to “crash” quickly once these signs are present, so act quickly.
  4. Dry drowning usually occurs within 1 hour and 24 hours after incident.
    * If it is caught early, dry drowning can be treated.
    * Treatment involves supplying oxygen to the lungs.
    * Call 911 or take the child or person immediately to the emergency room if there are signs or symptoms indicating risk of a dry drowning episode.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Featured photo by Serge Melki

About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, part-time coach. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. Likes to run :-)

12 Comments

  1. Also, be aware that treatment for drowning in chlorinated pool water versus sea water may require different medical response.

    • There is no such thing as secondary drowning, near-drowning or dry drowning. These terms we made obsolete over 10 years ago and are not recognised by the World Health Organisation, International Lifesaving Federation or International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (from which all CPR guidelines are developed). Drowning is a process, and as such it can only occur when the victim is submerged (under) or immersed (in) in water (or some other liquid). Once the victim is removed from the water, the drowning process is OVER! Whilst all survivors of drowning need to be assessed by a doctor, to suggest that they can drown “again” is both misleading and inaccurate. It is true that patients can develop complications post-drowning, but these complications are called what they are eg. Pneumonia – not “dressed up” in an invented term such a dry or secondary drowning. If you would like to read a simple explanation of the correct drowning terminology, and why we don’t use words like dry drowning anymore, then please follow this link: http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/126-1386/5921/

      • Hey you f****** idiot guess what? My nephew just passed away at 8 months old from what the doctors titled dry drown. He inhaled food into his lungs and then was unable to breathe after that, and then you went to cardiac arrest.. I’m not going to go into the rest, but there is such thing as dry drowning, so stop misinforming people!!! And they’re not drowning twice if there’s water still in there and no one knows get your facts straight!!

      • Who cares what it’s called? The fact is that parents need to know that if their child shows the above symptoms they need to get to the hospital especially if they were in the pool earlier. They can call it space monkey drowning for all I care.

    • Agreed. Additionally, high or poorly regulated chlorine (or bromine) levels, along with pH imbalance may complicate the issue. What would be an interesting study (which I now propose) would be to statistically analyze the difference, if any, between victims with/or without, known history of ASTHMA, in TREATED pool water.

  2. Sorry! I left something out which, in fairness to you should be said… YOU are not alone, in fact, YOU (probably) represent the majority.

  3. A study of drowning victims with history of asthma could be useful to encourage better management of the condition allowing safer participation in water sports. Elite swimming competitors with exercise induced asthma are not uncommon and have obviously learned to overcome their limitations.

  4. Pingback: What Is Dry Drowning? - The ZocDoc Blog

  5. Pingback: Safety in and Around Your Swimming Pool

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