It is often during the summer holidays that children are sent to classes like swimming. This is a great initiative taken by parents as swimming has a number of health benefits for a child as well as the risk of catching a cold are lesser in the summer months. Children also enjoy their time in the pool and swimming increases mental awareness. They create some fun memories.
But a child should be allowed to swim only under a parental supervision or strict guidance of a professional expert.
There might be chances of drowning if a kid is new on swimming lessons which can be taken care of with adults around, but have you heard of the term ‘dry drowning’?
Here’s what you need to know about dry drowning in a child
While a kid is playing in the pool, it is common to get submerged and gulp some amount of water. Initially, the child might be having difficulty breathing, might cough a couple of times, but after some comfort, everything seems normal. Some might even vomit immediately after and get on with their normal activities of the day. This is when parents think that the danger is averted. But going by some recent scenarios, doctors suggest that the child should be kept under strict observation for 24 hours if he/she accidentally swallowed some water.
What is Dry Drowning?
A child might accidentally consume some water while playing at the pool or any other water body. But anatomically, after accidental water consumption, the muscles of the windpipe tend to get constricted for protection of lungs. This is commonly referred to as ‘dry drowning’. It is a common occurrence in kids; while 95% of them remain unaffected, it is important for parents to stay vigilant after accidental submersion at least for 24 hours. If something abnormal like dry drowning fever, puking, or breathing difficulty happens within the observations time, call a doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Dry Drowning
Dry drowning is serious and the symptoms can start showing within an hour or so of leaving water. Sometimes, it occurs even days after. When this happens, the vocal chords start closing over the windpipe resulting in difficult breathing as the lungs get a minimum supply of oxygen. This is known as laryngospasm.
Here are some other signs of dry drowning
- Difficulty in breathing or speaking
- Irritability or unusual behaviour
- Coughing and wheezing
- Complaining of chest pain
- Restless, Fatigue or Sleepiness after a water incident
The first sign that should prompt you to take a medical advice is if your child is not breathing properly.
Immediate action for Dry Drowning
Know and identify the symptoms of dry drowning. Call an ambulance immediately if you notice any physical difficulties like wheezing, coughing or breathing difficulty.
In the meantime, try and keep your child calm through the laryngospasm phase. As medical assistance arrives, they will administer your child’s vitals and start resuscitation if lack of oxygen is identified. Once regular breathing resumes, your child will be taken to the hospital for further treatment.
How to prevent Dry Drowning
Dry drowning in children can be prevented under adult supervision and underwater accidents. Since, what causes dry drowning has already been explained, a little about its prevention will help many to avoid such circumstances.
Keep these safety rules in mind:
- If your child is 2 years or younger, floatation devices like tube, swimming vest, inflatable arm bands along with parental supervision is a must in pool or the beach. Make sure that they don’t experience a water submersion. Don’t ever dunk them underwater even if it is only for a few seconds. If they get accidentally submerged under water, take them to ER and get tested.
- If you child is 4 years or younger, don’t leave them to swim in a pool or any water body unassisted.
- Make sure to put a swimming vest on them whenever in pool or any other water body.
- Consider taking infant CPR lessons so that you can help your child with first aid till medical help arrives.
- Even if you have placed your child in a bathtub, don’t leave them unsupervised. Dry drowning can occur in a bathtub too.
Dry drowning is one of the leading causes of children deaths around the world. There have been many instances where parents have shared their experiences that their child have gone through due to dry drowning. Everything might seem normal for a few hours unless the child starts exhibiting symptoms.
One such incident involved a 4-year old girl from Florida who was a victim of dry drowning. She was playing with a pool noodle and enjoying her swimming. She accidentally gulped in a large amount of water in her throat as she was blowing water in and out of the pool noodle. She vomited immediately and everything was just fine. She carried on with her antics until she came down with fever the next day. Her fever went in a couple of days only to appear again soon. She was palpitating hard, breathing with a lot of difficulty as she was low on oxygen and her skin was turning purple. She had to be immediately stretchered to the ER and get treatment. The mother of the 4-year old advises parents not to keep the child under observation at home but immediately seek medical advice.
It is important for you to know about dry drowning so that the minute you notice any uneasiness or abnormality in your child, you seek immediate emergency medical assistance. Consulting a nearby General Physician or a Pulmonologist can help.