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What is dry drowning? – Symptoms and secondary causes of drowning

It's the worst fear of all parents: You enjoy the pool with your child one minute and you head to the emergency room the next.

Such was the case of the four-year-old girl, Elianna Grace, who splashed in her backyard pool in Bradenton, Florida earlier this month. After he accidentally swallowed the water while playing in the pool – something that his mother described as a "strange accident" – Elianna immediately vomited, but seemed to recover soon after, according to ABC News .

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Only two days later, Elianna was hit by a fever that did not give. Her mother took her to the emergency room, where her heart rate soared, oxygen levels dropped and the skin turned purple. From there, the two went directly to the emergency room.

Remembering the 4-year-old boy from Texas who died last summer after inhaling water during a weekend trip on Memorial Day, Elianna's mother burst into tears, suspecting the same thing happening to Elianna. "At the time, I had no idea how it would end," he told ABC News . "He was so, so, so terrified."

Elianna was, in fact, experiencing "dry drowning" or "secondary drowning". It was treated for aspiration pneumonia, a condition in which there is inflammation or an infection of the lungs or large airways. He spent four days in the hospital, relying on a tank of oxygen to breathe, and is slowly recovering.

Here's what you should know about dry and secondary drowning, how to detect conditions, and what you can do to keep your children safe this summer.

What is dry drowning and secondary drowning?

Dry drowning and secondary drowning are often used interchangeably, and they even have similar symptoms, but they are different conditions. Dry drowning occurs after inhaling water through the nose or mouth, causing a spasm and blocking the airways, which prevents proper breathing, according to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Secondary drowning, also known as delayed drowning, involves ingesting water as well. However, unlike dry drowning, water reaches the lungs, causing inflammation or swelling and preventing breathing over time, says the AOA.

What are the symptoms of dry and secondary drowning?

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If your child accidentally swallows a large amount of water, he may experience breathing problems, cough, drowsiness or decreased energy, irritability, chest pain, or vomiting. If you notice these warning signs, go to the hospital and check the document.

In the case of a dry drowning, these symptoms are likely to occur shortly after the water is ingested. In cases of secondary drowning, the symptoms often do not appear until a few hours, or even days, after the incident.

How can dry drowning and secondary drowning be prevented?

As with any other type of drowning, you can take some steps to keep your children safe from drowning or secondary drowning while swimming.

In addition to being alert while your child is in the water, have him take swimming lessons as early as possible to learn proper water safety, recommends the AOA. Never let them swim alone and always make sure there are lifeguards.

The good news is that these conditions are rare, so you should always watch your children while they are in the pool and take note of any unusual symptoms, you should be able to enjoy the water with little concern this summer.


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