Parents who visit public pools and other bodies of water for recreational purposes know to be ever vigilant against their small children drowning in the water. What few people know to look out for is a one alarming thing that’s happening to kids across the country which many people are mistaking for something else until it’s too late. Don’t let this happen to you or your child. If you see any of the following signs, get medical care immediately as time is of the essence. Waiting just an hour could cost your child’s life.
The issue of dry drowning has gained national attention after a four year old Texas boy died while suffering from it.
The family said it took Frankie to Texas City Dike on Memorial Day weekend. Frankie was playing in the water. It was only knee deep. His mother and father said Frankie only fell underwater briefly.
“A boat had passed by and knocked him down, and he got back up and just cleaned his face. I asked him if he was fine, and he said he was fine,” said Frankie’s mother, Tara Delgado.
Never assume everything is fine, especially with children. Their bodies are still maturing and are susceptible to problems adults have an easier time coping with. So parents should never let their guard down.
Frankie laughed, smiled and continued to play. It was only until two days later when Frankie started to show symptoms.
His parents originally thought he had a stomach bug. He had trouble sleeping, and breathing. He had chest and should pains and had been vomiting. He also had diarrhea.
“I love my son so much. I’m always touching him, and I’m always talking to him when he’s sleeping, and all of a sudden he just woke up,” Delgado said. “He looked at me, and he just rolled his eyes back and took a deep breath. I was like ‘Frankie, what’s wrong,’ and I got up real quick, and I saw that he took a breath but never exhaled.”
Frankie was rushed to the hospital. For more than an hour, medical staff tried to help and resuscitate him. Eventually, doctors told the family, Frankie did not make it. His family said they found water in his lungs and around his heart.
Tragically, doctors determined that little Frankie died from “dry drowning.” Live Science defines “dry drowning” and its causes in the following way:
Dry drowning occurs when, after being submerged in water, a person’s vocal cords experience a spasm and close, making it difficult to breathe, said Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency-medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who was not involved in the boy’s care. When this happens, the body’s response is to send fluid to the lungs to try to open up the vocal cords. But this can lead to excess fluid in the lungs — a condition called pulmonary edema. Symptoms of dry drowning usually start within an hour after a person is submerged in water, Patrick said.
Another uncommon way people can drown some time after being submerged in water is called “secondary drowning.” In this case, water dilutes or washes out the lungs’ surfactant, a slippery substance that’s needed to prevent lung sacs from sticking together and collapsing, Patrick told Live Science. Without the surfactant, the lung sacs start to stick together, and the body can’t properly exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen, Patrick said. This causes the same shock response as dry drowning — the body sending fluid to the lungs — resulting in pulmonary edema. Symptoms of secondary drowning usually start within 24 hours after a person is submerged in water, he said.
- Coughing – this needs special consideration if the child has difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain
- Increased “work of breathing”
- Sleepiness – Going from active and energetic to abrupt fatigue could be due to lack of oxygen in the blood
- Change in behavior or affected memory – lack of oxygen can affect how the child is acting
- Throwing up – a sign of stress to the body not getting oxygen
Parents should be on the look out for these symptoms any time a child has to be rescued from the water, even if its shallow water. Drowning can even occur in bathtubs and toilet bowls.
If you suspect your child may be suffering from symptoms of dry drowning WebMD recommends the taking the following actions:
Any problems that do develop are usually treatable if you get medical help right away. Your job is to keep a close eye on your child for the 24 hours after he has had any problems in the water.
If the symptoms don’t go away, or if they get worse, take your child to the emergency room, not your pediatrician’s office.
“Your child will need a chest X-ray, an IV, and be admitted for observation,” Pitetti says. “That can’t be done in an office.”
Because there are no drugs for dry or secondary drowning, your child will probably get “supportive care” at the hospital. This means checking that his airways are clear and monitoring his oxygen level. If he’s having severe trouble breathing, he may need to use a breathing tube for a while.
Experts agree that the best way to deal with the issue of dry drowning is prevention, which includes:
- Watching your child closely while they’re in the water
- Never letting them swim alone
- Swimming in areas where a lifeguard is on duty
- Enrolling your children (and yourself) in water safety classes and swim lessons
- Making sure your pool, if you have one, is completely fenced off.
Even though death from dry drowning is rare parents should always be on their guard. Doing so can be lifesaving.
Share this with family and friends on social media so they can be aware and on the look out for evidence of this fatal and tragic condition. You never know who you could be saving.