Dry Drowning

Dry drowning is a set of symptoms that may arise within the first hour after rescuing and resuscitation from a water drowning. Learn more about the warning signs of dry drowning, how to seek immediate help and how to prevent dry drowning.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Dry Drowning
Dry Drowning

Drowning in water can be fatal sometimes. With children, especially, death due to drowning is a matter of great concern. Most often, in a drowning scenario, once the child is taken out of the water and is visibly alright, we might feel relieved, but we might be wrong sometimes. Know about dry drowning and why a child out from water may not be out of danger altogether.

What is dry drowning?

There is a wide discrepancy in the medical field about using the term 'dry drowning'. 'Secondary drowning' is another term that is close to dry drowning though some experts say both aren’t the same. For information sake, dry drowning is a set of symptoms that may arise within the first hour after rescuing and resuscitation from a water drowning. When the air passage is disturbed due to the entry of water in the windpipe during drowning, it can result in dry drowning. 

In the case of secondary drowning, water inhaled during drowning enters the lungs, filling up the air sacs. Under normal conditions, the air sacs help in the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and bloodstream. When the water-filled air sacs can no longer transport the gases efficiently, oxygen supply for the normal functioning of the body is decreased leading to an emergency condition. 

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What are the signs of dry drowning?

Dry drowning symptoms show up in the first hour after taking the child out from the water. Observe the child constantly and be warned if you spot any of the following signs:

  • The child has breathing difficulty or the breathing seems constrained
  • The child is unable to speak coercively 
  • The child suffers from a persistent cough
  • The child feels nauseating and throws out food
  • The child looks weak or physically tired.

What must you do in the case of a dry drowning?

If you find any of the above signs of dry drowning, you must act quickly. Call the emergency or a doctor immediately. Do not wait for the symptoms to subside and thereby delay seeking medical attention. In the meanwhile, make way for the child to relax which can help the air passages to calm down and allow relaxed breathing. 


How dry drowning is treated?

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It requires a medical expert to diagnose the child’s condition and decide on the treatment. Treatment depends on how critical the drowning has affected the respiratory system and how stable the child appears. If there is serious breathing difficulty, an external supply of oxygen might be administered. In some cases, a chest x-ray may be needed for further diagnosis. 


How can dry drowning be prevented?

Most cases of drowning complications are preventable. When you are taking your child near a water body, keep the following in mind:

  • Even if your children are experts at swimming, do not leave them unattended. Accidents can happen anytime. 
  • A few minutes of drowning is enough to cause potential damage to the child’s system. It is important to monitor the child for dry drowning symptoms. 
  • During training sessions or boat rides, make sure to use protective gears like floatation devices and life jackets. 
  • Drowning doesn’t always happen in huge water bodies. A bathtub is enough to cause a mishap. Carry your baby with you or bring him/her out of the bathtub if you have to leave the place.

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