Drowning on dry land: What parents need to know


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – With the hot weather, many are taking to local swimming pools and lakes. And while most are familiar with the dangers of drowning, there are two types of dangers that can happened on dry land.

Dry drowning and secondary drowning are rare but can happen hours after a swimmer has left the water. Dry drowning happens when a swimmer has taken in water in the nose and mouth and causes the victim’s vocal chords to spasm, which cuts off the airway. Secondary drowning is when water gets into the lungs and later impacts breathing.

ValleyCare physician Dr. Mark Swift said both dry drowning and secondary drowning have the same symptoms.

“They both have the same symptoms which is dysemia, trouble breathing and chest pains,” Swift said.

Fatigue, coughing and irritability can also occur with both types of drowning.

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.

To help prevent dry drowning and secondary drowning, experts at Parents magazine suggest:

  • Swim lesson: Children who are comfortable in the water are less likely to take in water. Age 4 is a good time to start.
  • Supervision: Monitor kids closely in and around water and enforce safety rules.
  • Water safety measures: Children should wear flotation devices on boats and in the water. A child should never be left alone near any standing water.

If you notice a child with dry drowning symptoms, they should be taken to the emergency room or to see a doctor immediately, according to the emergency director at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. He said in many cases, the symptoms should go away on their own, but if they continue for a long period of time or get worse, you should take action.

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