Children and adults can drown hours after swallowing water from a pool or another body of water. (Metro)
Drowning is a danger any time of the year and wherever water is present. Instances of drowning escalate in the summer, when more people are apt to spend time in the pool or at the seaside. But drownings can occur year-round, and young children are at the greatest risk of drowning.
While many people are familiar with the risk factors that lead to drowning, many have never heard of secondary drowning, a related condition that can occur hours after leaving the water.
According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death across the globe, accounting for almost 400,000 deaths annually. When a person drowns, he or she takes water into their larynx and lungs, which is known as aspiration. Lack of oxygen in the body causes bodily systems to shut down, and cardiac arrest and brain damage can result.
Secondary drowning, also known as dry drowning or delayed drowning, is a post-immersion respiratory syndrome. It occurs when water or another fluid has entered the lungs but has not caused enough initial trauma to result in fatal drowning. However, water that has gotten inside the lungs may cause damage to the inside surface of the organ, collapse alveoli and cause a hardening of the lungs that reduces the ability to exchange air. The body may also retaliate against the foreign water by drawing more fluid into the lungs. Over time, the lungs will suffocate themselves, which is why dry drowning can occur hours after exiting the water.
Children tend to be more prone to dry drowning than adults. Parents are urged to keep careful watch over children who experienced distress in the water, which may have resulted in the inhalation of fluid. Furthermore, the children who are most at risk for dry drowning are those with known breathing or lung problems, including underdeveloped lungs or asthma.
The following are potential indicators of secondary drowning. Prompt action should be taken if any of these signs are noticed after an adult or child leaves the water.
* Persistent cough:
Anyone who has swallowed water will cough and sputter as the body attempts to naturally expel the water. But persistent coughing that lasts long after the water has been breathed in may be indicative of water aspiration in the lungs.
Difficulty understanding verbal instructions or not being able to form words or thoughts may be a symptom of dry drowning.
Chest pain is a strong indicator of water aspiration.
* Trouble breathing:
Difficulty breathing long after a person has been swimming may indicate secondary drowning.
Extreme tiredness or a sudden lack of energy may be indicative of a problem.
Monitor for the symptoms of dry drowning anytime a person swallows water. Keep the person nearby and do not allow him or her to go to sleep, as some children have died from secondary drowning in their sleep.
If you notice any symptoms of dry drowning, take the person exhibiting those symptoms to the hospital, as this is not something that can be treated at home. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, a person would only have to inhale four ounces of water to drown and even less to injure his lungs enough to become a victim of secondary drowning. Emergency room physicians can remove residual water from the lungs and administer life-saving oxygen.
Although not all instances of swallowing water will result in dry drowning, it is beneficial to understand and learn to recognize secondary drowning symptoms so fast action can be taken if necessary.