4 Signs of Dry Drowning and How to Prevent It

Dry drowning is when water is inhaled into the lungs, resulting in inflammation that makes it very difficult for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide. In dry drowning, a child takes in a small amount of water through his or her nose and/or mouth, and it causes a spasm in the airway, making it to close up. In secondary drowning, the little bit of water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling that makes it impossible for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide and vice versa.

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Dry drowning happens soon after coming out of the water, but with secondary drowning, there can be a delay of up to 24 hours before the person shows signs of distress. Both can cause trouble breathing and death in severe cases. If you feel your child may be experiencing dry drowning, there are signs to look out for, and steps to prevent it

4 Signs of Dry Drowning

If your child has been pulled out of the pool, make sure they get medical attention right away. A child recently rescued from almost drowning could be at risk of breathing water into their lungs. Even if they haven’t been recently rescued from the water, keep an eye out on children who have been playing in water, especially if they have been submerged. Even children who are proficient at swimming can be at risk.

  1. Coughing

Don’t ignore a child with persistent cough after having gone swimming in any water. The coughing will be a sign of trouble breathing and water in the lungs.

  1. Difficulty breathing

Children who have inhaled water into their lungs and are now suffering from inflammation will have increased “work of breathing”, which means they will be displaying rapid, shallow breaths and flared nostrils.

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  1. Fatique

Your child may not be getting enough oxygen if he/she goes from animated to exhausted after getting out of the pool. Use your judgement on this one and make sure that your child is not showing the other signs of dry drowning before allowing them to rest. Get a doctor’s approval before letting them sleep.

  1. Vomiting

Throwing up is a sign that your child is in distress and not getting enough oxygen. It can also be caused by persistent coughing. If your child begins to vomit up within 24 hours after getting out of the water, accompanied by the other symptoms, make sure to get them to a doctor.

If you are worried your child may be exhibiting signs of dry drowning, make sure to give your child’s doctor a call. They will be able to advise you on the signs and whether or not your child will need medical intervention.

How to avoid Dry Drowning

1. Swimming lessons

Teaching children how to swim can help them safely learn how to maneuver through the water and prevent them from accidentally going under and breathing water into their lungs.

2. Proper supervision

It is wise to watch your child during their time in pool, even if they know how to swim. If your child enjoys plunging themselves in the water, as most kids do, make sure you keep an extra eye on them for the signs of dry drowning after they have come out of the water.

3. Water safety

If your child doesn’t know how to swim well in deeper water, you are going to want to make sure that they have water flotation devices on at all times. Also, ensure that pools and beaches have lifeguards on duty for an extra set of eyes. Standing water should not be left where a child can easily get in without your knowledge, such as a filled bathtub or blow up pool.


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