Dry Drowning: You Need to Read This


Dry Drowning: You Need to Read This

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is the number one cause of pediatric injury-related deaths. Children under the age of four are at the highest risk for drowning.

If you’re a parent or a caregiver, a child drowning in any body of water – the ocean, a lake, a pool or even a bathtub – is front and center on your radar. But are you aware of the symptoms and risks of the lesser-known dry drowning?

Dry Drowning: What is it?

Children can inhale water through their nose and mouth if they unexpectedly get submerged in water. If the water doesn’t enter their lungs, the real danger lies in their vocal cords spasming. If the child’s vocal cords don’t relax, it prevents air from being brought into the lungs and can cause dry drowning.

Dry drowning is rare; however, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Symptoms of dry drowning include struggling to breathe or speak, chest pain, coughing, extremely lethargic or cranky behavior within an hour of a water incident.

Secondary Drowning: What is it?

Secondary drowning is another serious but rare type of drowning. Unlike dry drowning, secondary drowning can occur up to 48 hours after a water incident.

With secondary drowning, the child’s lungs slowly fill up with water hours after the incident, causing the child to have a progressively harder time breathing. The most significant symptoms of secondary drowning are unresponsiveness, difficulty breathing, confusion and extreme fatigue. Children involved in a water incident should be closely monitored for 48 hours to make sure they don’t exhibit any secondary drowning symptoms.

Water Safety Tips for Drowning Prevention

The best way to prevent drowning is to be vigilant around the water. Our experts suggest the following water safety tips:

  • Make sure a trusted adult is watching your child at all times in all bodies of water – even a bathtub with shallow water.
  • Always have your child wear a life vest or puddle jumper in the water until they have completed swim lessons.
  • Use life vests on boats.
  • Reinforce water safety rules with children from a young age.
  • Only swim in the ocean in approved areas when lifeguards are present.
  • Never nap or drink alcohol when you are in charge of a child near water.

Learn more about water safety

The AAP offers a water safety toolkit for parents and caregivers, providing drowning prevention information, brochures and videos for a variety of age groups. For more information on water safety, please schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.