Dry Drowning: What Every Parent Should Know


Girl drowning in pool
Some warning signs of drowning: hair over the forehead or eyes, vertical position in the water, arms moving under water and possible gasping. But they should see medical attention soon after recuperating so as to confirm there is no dry drowning.

Photo by frantabyayimages.com
Just recently, in May 2017, a child in New Jersey was saved from drowning by an off-duty policeman during a back-yard pool party. This is not uncommon and is indicative of the many water accidents that occur throughout the county, especially during the summer months.

Lindsay Kujawa, a blog writer in Southern California had described a harrowing incident about her family’s brush with dry drowning.

Her son had slipped into the pool and was being sucked to the other side by the pool jets. Kujawa, who noticed his fall almost immediately ran to pull him out. Initially, he showed no sign of distress. However, hours later, he had to be rushed to the hospital as his mother hopelessly saw her son’s oxygen level drop.

While her son had recovered, the mother wrote that it was one of the worst things that could happen to a mother, and that other parents should learn from her experience.

If you, like many others, have never heard of the term ‘dry drowning’, you should consider reading the article right till the end.

What is Dry Drowning?

The term dry drowning seems to be confusing to most people. The first thing that you should keep in mind regarding dry drowning is that it has nothing to do with hot and dry climatic condition. It happens when a small child inhales water after being submerged in water for a few minutes. The drowning is called ‘dry’ since it happens outside the water.  

Unlike adults, small children’s lungs have lower capacity to handle fluids. A child who slips and falls in the pool for even a few minutes will face life threatening situation later on. The  signs of distress show up to 24 hours after being submerged in water.

Signs of Dry Drowning

  • Submerged in Water — A child less than 5 years old who has been pulled from water after drowning. It’s important that the child should receive immediate medical help even if submerged in water for a few minutes.
  • Vomiting — Inflammation, lack of oxygen, and intense coughing causes vomiting. It shows that the child is in distress.
  • Feeling Tired — While it’s normal for a child to feel sleepy after some time at the pool, it may also be due to loss of oxygen. If a child has been submerged in water and looks extra fatigued, it’s recommended to call a pediatrician.
  • Difficulty in Breathing — Shallow and rapid breathing is another sign of dry drowning. Seek immediate medical help if the child displays labored breathing after being submerged in water.
  • Changed Behavior — If a child seem sick or woozy, it may be due to lack of oxygen. Again, it’s recommended to get medical help.

    Get Immediate Medical Help

If a child has been pulled out of water after slipping, it’s important to seek immediate medical help. Even though the child may be acting fine, the fluid that has accumulated inside the lungs can cause a life threatening situation.

The medical professional will obtain an X-ray of the lungs and mentor signs of respiratory distress. In case any anomaly is detected, the doctor will take immediate steps to address the issue. Timely professional help may well save the life of the child.