Community Education-Water Incidents
Welcome to the May edition of our Community Education Series. With it being the time where everyone is starting to open their personal pools, go to swim clubs, or going to the shore, we thought it would be a good idea to give you insights into dry drowning/secondary drowning. We want to discuss how bystanders can help in these situations while waiting for help to arrive.
What is dry drowning/secondary drowning?
Dry drowning is when the body responds to the intake of water into the lungs. Most people believe that when someone is inhaling water and is then removed from the water, the danger is over. This leads to a common misconception where the person who took in water is not monitored but can still suffer effects from the incident.
Dry drowning and secondary drowning are both the result of injuries that happen underwater. Dry drowning sets in less than an hour after inhaling water. But secondary drowning, which is also rare, can happen up to 48 hours after a water accident.
Secondary drowning is caused by water that accumulates in the lungs. It’s more similar to what we think of as “real” drowning because it involves your lungs filling up with water. The water then causes breathing difficulties. Both dry drowning and secondary drowning are serious health conditions that can be fatal.
Symptoms of Dry Drowning/Secondary drowning:
These symptoms usually appear within the first hour after the water incident. However, that is the average time so it could be sooner or later than an hour.
- Laryngospasm- closing of the vocal cords that does not allow air into the lungs after someone taking in water through the nose/mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty speaking
- Irritability or unusual behavior-caused by not enough oxygen getting to the brain
- Chest Pain
- Lethargy after a water incident
Treatments of Dry Drowning/Secondary Drowning
If you see someone possibly experiencing these symptoms after a water incident, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!!! This type of emergency cannot wait and could be fatal if not treated quickly. While waiting for help to arrive, the most you can do is try to keep the person calm as it may help relax the muscles causing the laryngospasms. Prompt transport to the hospital is needed to also prevent secondary illnesses such as bacterial pneumonia.