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Parents and Lifeguards Beware. Dry Drowning!

Parents need to know the three warning signs of dry drowning, since dry drowning occurs most often in children and the small amount of water necessary to claim another victim to dry drowning can be inhaled during a child’s bath time, in the neighborhood pool, or at the beach.

The three important signs parents need to look for after their child has been in water are: Difficulty in breathing, extreme tiredness and behavior changes. All three of the signs of dry drowning are due to a reduced flow of oxygen to the brain.

The young dry drowning victim in South Carolina had been swimming in a pool and walked home with his mother after the swim. At some point during the swim, the young boy inhaled a small amount of water in his lungs, yet he was still able to talk and walk, showing no signs of respiratory distress.

The young boy did show two of the three signs indicating dry drowning, his mother however, being unaware of dry drowning or its warning signs attributed the signs to something else.

The young boy soiled himself in the pool, which was a behavioral change for the 10 year old. After the soiling incident, the young boy, his sister and mother walked home from the pool. The mother says she bathed her son and he said he was sleepy; he goes to bed, never to awake again. A victim of dry drowning.

My advice is to monitor your child after water exposure, looking for three things:

• Difficulty breathing
• Extreme tiredness
• Changes in behavior

Just to clarify, that would be difficulty breathing not caused by allergies, asthma, or too much chlorine; extreme tiredness not caused by lots of time in the sun and the water; and changes in behavior not caused by the fact that your child is over stimulated from the water or disrupted by an unusual routine or just a crazed little punk who changes his behavior every few minutes.

Although asphyxiation (lack of oxygen that causes unconsciousness) is common to all immersion incidents, actual aspiration of water into the lungs may or may not occur. Up to 15 percent of drownings are “dry,” presumably because the breath is held or because a reflex spasm of the larynx seals off the airway inlet at the throat. When aspiration does occur, the volume of fluid entering the lungs rarely exceeds a glassful; the lungs “fill with water” chiefly because of an abnormal accumulation of body fluids (pulmonary edema) that is a secondary complication of oxygen deprivation. Commonly, also, quantities of water are swallowed and later vomited spontaneously or during resuscitative procedures; vomiting after the protective laryngeal spasm has subsided can lead to aspiration of stomach contents.

It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel like you can never let your children leave the house or have an unaccompanied moment. Until tomorrow, when there’ll be an article explaining the deadly perils of staying home under close supervision.  If you suspect your child have the signs of dry drowning go to the emergency and insist the child be monitored for at least 24 hours before discharging him or her.

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