Swimming is one of the greatest pleasures of the warmer months. For children, a swimming pool can be the source of endless fun and a cool escape from the heat.
For even the best of swimmers, being in the water has its risks, and they’re not all obvious. For one, drowning or dry drowning is a very real possibility.
A Dangerous Sport
The biggest risk of swimming, of course, is drowning. It’s the second-most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 (1).
The problem is, drowning doesn’t happen like you see it in movies. In real life, drowning happens quickly and silently, typically caused by exhaustion or muscle cramping.
While drowning, it’s actually physically impossible to yell or lift up your arms, making it hard for parents to know what’s really happening.
Signs of drowning include (2):
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Not using legs—vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
- Trying to roll over on the back
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
Even if you manage to save someone from drowning, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re in the clear.
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What’s Dry Drowning?
Delayed drowning, also called dry drowning, occurs within one to 48 hours after a near-drowning event (3).
It happens because people who nearly drown swallow plenty of water, some of which ends up in the lungs. This causes inflammation and swelling. Water in the lungs impairs your body’s ability to circulate oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Drowning
Although it’s hard to recognize dry drowning, some signs include difficulty breathing, extreme tiredness, and changes in behavior after swimming. These signs all indicate reduced oxygen flow to the brain. Other signs include blue lips, coughing, throwing up, and forgetfulness (4).
If caught in time, it’s possible to treat dry drowning. If you suspect your child might be affected by delayed drowning, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. They may have to stay under 24-hour observation.
Luckily, dry drowning is rare and only accounts for 1-2 percent of drowning incidents (5).
How to Prevent Dry Drowning
The best way to prevent drowning is by taking your child to swimming lessons. This helps build their confidence and strength in the water. It’s best to start swimming lessons before the age of four, although there are classes for newborns too.
It’s also important to closely supervise children while in the water and take water safety measures, such as wearing a flotation device when on a boat of other aquatic vehicle, and placing a protective fence around your pool.
Dry drowning is 100% preventable, all you need is to take your precautions before getting in the water and make sure your children are constantly monitored.