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Dry Drowning Signs To Know

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News of the 4-year old Texas toddler who died after dry drowning, the internet is aflame with warnings and symptoms of this terrifying tragedy. According to reports, the Texas child had shown symptoms that resembled a stomach bug for several days, including vomiting and diarrhea. After he passed away, doctors found fluid in his lungs and around his heart, telling the Delgado family, Frankie died of what’s known as “dry drowning.”

Here are the major symptoms and warning signs you should look out for with dry drowning:

How Dry Drowning Occurs: (Dry Drowning Versus Secondary/Delayed Drowning):

  • Dry drowning, someone takes in a small amount of water through his or her nose and/or mouth, and it causes a spasm in the airway, causing it to close up. It usually occurs soon after exiting the water

  • Secondary/Delayed drowning, the little bit of water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling that makes it difficult or impossible for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide and vice versa. With secondary/delayed drowning, there can be a delay of up to 24 hours before the person shows signs of distress. Both can cause trouble breathing and, in worst-case scenarios, death.

Warning Signs of Dry Drowning:

Here is a list of warning signs of dry drowning. If you are concerned that you child may be experiencing serious health problems, contact an emergency doctor right away.

  • Coughing: Persistent coughing or coughing associated with increased work of breathing needs to be evaluated.

  • Increased "work of breathing." : Rapid shallow breathing, nostril flaring, or where you can see between the child's ribs or the gap above their collarbone when they breathe, means they're working harder to breathe than normal, says Dr. Denny. This is a sign that you should seek medical help immediately.

  • Throwing up: "Vomiting is a sign of stress from the body as a result of the inflammation and sometimes a lack of oxygen, also from persistent coughing and gagging," explains Dr. Berchelmann.

  • Sleepiness or a drop in energy level: A dip in oxygen level could cause your child to feel sick or woozy, and extremely tired.

“Be attentive to sudden changes in behavior,” advises Dr. Mitchell. “Many parents don't recognize the signs of delayed drowning because they believe their child is fatigued from a long day of swimming, or exhausted from nearly drowning.” While symptoms are often mild and improve over time, it is still important to have your child examined as a precautionary measure.

“Treat dry or secondary drowning as a medical emergency. If you or someone you know starts exhibiting these signs, go to the hospital,” says Dr. Mitchell. Your physician can determine if airways are blocked, water is in the lungs, or oxygen levels are low. Once diagnosed, a physician will be able to provide the best treatment to restore your health.

Dry Drowning Prevention:

  • Swim lessons: Children who are skilled in the water are less likely to take in water. Swimming lessons starting at the age of 3 is smart.

  • Supervision: It usually goes without saying, but monitoring your children while they are in and around the water is the safest bet at preventing injury. Understandably you can't prevent every injury while your watching your children, you can be there to respond faster in the case something does happen. You will also be present to enforce safety.

*Water safety measures: Children should wear floatation devices on boats; pools should have four-sided fencing around them; and you should never leave standing water where a child could get into it.

As long as you practice water safety, pay close attention to your kids after swimming, and get them checked out if you notice any signs of trouble breathing, you shouldn't have to constantly stress about dry drowning or secondary drowning. "I can't emphasize enough how rare they are," says Dr. Zonfrillo. Heading into vacation season, that's welcome news.

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