Our instructors have been getting a lot of questions about conditions called dry drowning and secondary drowning which have been circulating around social media and news. Here are the most common questions about these conditions:

Is dry drowning the same as secondary drowning?

No, it is not. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, dry drowning occurs when an individual takes in a small amount of water through his or her nose and/or mouth which causes a spasm in the airway. Secondary drowning occurs when a bit of water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling that makes it difficult or impossible for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide and vice versa.

When does dry drowning occur?

Dry drowning occurs soon after exiting the water, but with secondary drowning, there can be a delay of up to 24 hours before the individual shows signs of distress. Both are extremely scary and should be treated immediately after symptoms are shown.

How often does this occur?

Dry drowning and secondary drowning incidents are scary, but extremely rare. They only account for about 1-2% of drowning incidents.

How do I spot the symptoms?

Don’t worry, dry drowning or secondary drowning DOES NOT come out of no where. You will see the warning signs which are listed below:

  • Water rescue. If a child falls in the water and is pulled out by a guard or an adult, a call to the pediatrician is recommended.
  • Increased breathing. Rapid shallow breathing, nostril flaring, or visibility of a child’s ribs or the gap above their collarbone when they breathe also means they’re working harder to breathe than normal.
  • Fatigue. Was your child extremely excited to be in the pool, and now he or she is lethargic and sleepy? This could mean a child’s blood is not receiving enough oxygen. Do not put him or her to bed before the doctor gives the okay.
  • Coughing. Persistent coughing associated with increased work of breathing after the beach, pool, or bath needs to be evaluated
  • Change in behavior. A dip in oxygen level could change a child’s attitude
  • Throwing up. Vomiting is a sign of stress from the body as a result of inflammation and sometimes even a lack of oxygen

Do swimming lessons put my child at risk of an incident?

Not at all. Swimming lessons are actually the number one most recommended prevention of these conditions. Children who are comfortable and skilled in pools are less likely to take in water. urSwim instructors also put an emphasis on water safety while conducting their lessons so your children know how to stay safe while swimming or playing around the pool.

What else can I do to help prevent a dry drowning or secondary drowning incident?

  • Supervise. Always monitor your children while they’re swimming. Watch how much water they’re taking in and be aware of any symptoms related to dry drowning or secondary drowning
  • Teach water safety. Children should wear proper flotation devices in the pool, ocean, and boats. Pools should have stable fencing around their perimeter and a pool alarm is also recommended

We hope this answers some of your questions regarding these types of drowning. As stated before, dry drowning and secondary drowning are extremely rare. As long as the symptoms are known and the proper precautions are taken, your children will enjoy this summer with urSwim.