The Dangers of Dry Drowning and What to Do About It

by Jane Joseph | Last Updated: June 19, 2020

Summer is finally upon us and that means a lot of time spent outdoors. Whether you are hanging out by the pool, taking the kids to the lake, or taking a family trip to the beach, odds are you will be cooling off in the water this summer.

When around water, drowning is always a concern to parents, especially with young children. Odds are, you will be closely watching your kids while they are around the water, but what many parents do not understand, or have misconceptions about, are the dangers of dry drowning.

What is Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning, a term no longer endorsed by medical professionals and organizations, refers to delayed drowning, or post-immersion syndrome. Regardless, these terms refer to an instance when a person “drowns” hours or days after swallowing or inhaling liquid.

True drowning occurs when an individual is unable to breathe after submerging themselves in a liquid, typically water. The act of drowning occurs when the exposure to liquid causes lung damage or causes the lung passageways to spasm and restrict airflow.

Accordingly, drowning is now defined as the lack of oxygen needed to survive, rather than the intake of water or another liquid.

Dry drowning, therefore, can be generally defined as an instance when preceding water intake later causes the voice box to spasm and the vocal cords to close, thereby preventing the necessary flow of oxygen to survive.

How to Prevent Dry Drowning

It is important to understand that dry drowning is extremely rare and typically only occurs after a near-drowning event transpires.

You can prevent dry drowning the same way you can prevent true drowning. Be vigilant of others when around water, swim with a lifeguard on duty, and if someone is having difficulty breathing, experiencing confusion, suffering from dizziness, is wheezing, or is coughing uncontrollably after inhaling a liquid or being submerged in water, you should immediately seek medical attention.

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