Health experts warn parents of dry drowning in young children


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Playing in the water can be a fun way to cool down in the summer, but it’s children under age 5 who are most at risk of dry drowning.

Health experts say there are two types of dry drowning, the first being a spasm of the airway when water tries to go through. This creates a lack of oxygen in the brain, but you’re able to see that person is in need of help.

The second type can be defined as “delayed drowning,”  which is caused by a small intake of water.

“The problem is that inflammation can develop from that inhalation of water. And that inflammation can take up to 24 hours to develop. And when that happens, the lungs can fill up with fluid and inflammation much later than the initial episode,” said Nicole Carbonell, M.D. at Penrose St. Francis Medical Center.

Health experts say it’s a rare event, but knowing the signs to look out for is important.

“Usually children under 5, they’re not gonna say, ‘hey mom, my lungs are filling with fluid.’ They’re gonna just exhibit some signs of distress,” Carbonell said.

Some of those signs include coughing when not sick – 4 to 6 hours after a visit to the pool, beach or even after a bath.

Also, belly breathing, and any signs of extra muscles being used to get air into the lungs.

“You wanna look at the muscles at the top of the collar-bone. And also at the skin right at top of the sternum here. And you wanna see if that skin, when they breathe, if it kind of sucks in a bunch. And then also look at the ribs, and see if the skin between the ribs kind of sucks in when they breathe,” Carbonell said.

Health experts say if you notice any of these signs, sit your child upright so they can breathe easier and take them to the Emergency Room.

Experts say the best thing you can do to prevent dry drowning is to be observant of your child and teach them how to swim.

Penrose St. Francis Medical Center says they haven’t seen any dry drowning cases so far this year.

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