If you're like most parents, you probably figure once your child is done swimming or playing in the water, his risk of drowning is over. But "dry" and "secondary" drowning can happen hours after he's toweled off and moved on to other things. There are steps you can take to keep your child safe.
These types of drowning can happen when your child breathes water into his lungs. Sometimes that happens when he's struggling while swimming. But it can be a result of something as simple as getting water in his mouth or getting dunked.
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It can happen to adults, but it's more common in kids because of their small size, says Raymond Pitetti, MD, associate medical director of the emergency department at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
With dry drowning, water never reaches the lungs. Instead, breathing in water causes your child's vocal chords to spasm and close up after he's already left the pool, ocean, or lake. That shuts off his airways, making it hard to breathe.
Secondary drowning happens a little bit differently. Your child's airways open up, letting water into his lungs where it builds up, causing a condition called pulmonary edema. The end result is the same: trouble breathing.
Symptoms of dry drowning usually happen right after any incident in the water. Secondary drowning generally starts later, within 1-24 hours of the incident, Pitetti says.
Both events are very rare. They make up only 1%-2% of all drowning incidents, says James Orlowski, MD, chief of pediatrics at Florida Hospital Tampa.
Dry drowning and secondary drowning have the same symptoms. They include: