Children and water.  This combination is one of the most dangerous a parent can face and most of us do everything we can to prevent our children from drowning.  But what about dry drowning?  You may have heard of it but still aren’t entirely sure what it is.

Dry drowning occurs when a child takes in small amounts of water through his nose or mouth.  This water intake causes a spasm in the trachea, making it close up.  Not to be confused with secondary drowning where the child takes water into the lungs causing inflammation that makes it difficult for oxygen or carbon dioxide transfer. In dry drowning, the water affects the trachea and does not reach the lungs. 

As a parent, it is important to know the symptoms of dry drowning to protect your children when they spent time in the bathtub, swimming pool, ocean, or lake. The following common symptoms of Dry Drowning typically occur twenty-four hours after being exposed to water.  

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling very tired
  • Trouble breathing
  • Changes in behavior (Irritability, for example)

How to Prevent Dry Drowning

Signing your kids up for swimming lessons is one of the best ways to teach kids the proper way to swim without taking in water.  In the meantime, always supervise your children in the bathtub, swimming pool or other body of water and use flotation devices that help keep their nose and mouth out of the water. Remember, they only need to take in a small amount of water to cause dry drowning.   

If your child exhibits any of the above symptoms after being exposed to water, you should take them to the emergency room or closest hospital immediately.  While dry drowning is more common in children, it can also occur in adults.