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Why Dry Drowning Is A Serious Problem

dry drowning

As a parent, watching your children play in a pool is both fun and nerve-racking. You want your child to enjoy swimming on a hot summer’s day, but you also have to be careful. One mistake could lead to something serious.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings in the U.S. alone. That works out to nearly 400 pool and spa drownings each year or roughly ten deaths per day.

dry drowning

A lesser-known problem is dry drowning. According to Mark R. Zonfrillo, M.D., MSCE of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, dry drowning accounts for about one to two percent of drowning incidents. Although it has always existed, people have only recently started realizing the dangers of this condition. It can cause your child to stop breathing even if they’ve been out of the water for a long time. But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to recognize dry drowning and help prevent it from happening.

What Is Dry Drowning?

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It’s important to note that there is no official medical condition or diagnosis called “dry drowning.” Doctors just say “drowning.” Then why the unofficial term? Because it really helps explain how this condition is different.

Dry drowning starts by taking in a small amount of water in your mouth or nose. Even though it’s not nearly enough to drown anyone, it causes the body to think it’s drowning. The airway spasms and closes up, stopping you from breathing.

Believe it or not, this spasm can happen for up to 24 hours after swimming, and it can even happen with bath water. That’s why dry drowning is a serious problem — your child can stop breathing long after they left the pool.

Protecting Kids From Dry Drowning

Dry drowning is more likely if your child has a problem while swimming. For example, more water will get into their airway if they fall into a pool unexpectedly, so that increases the risk of this condition.

How can you help? Since it can happen so long after swimming, the first way you can protect your child from dry drowning is by knowing the warning signs:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Difficulty breathing, including rapid, shallow breathing
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Vomiting

But how can you prevent this from happening? Through the same tips and techniques that help with regular drowning. Remember that dry drowning is more likely if your child had a problem in the water. explains that you need to make sure your child has swim lessons and is supervised by an adult at all times. CPR can definitely help, so look in your community for CPR training lessons provided by your city or county.

You can also help prevent dry drowning by focusing on pool safety with your children. has some great resources for teaching your kids about being safe near a pool, including a short video, an app, and a poster.

Pool & Spa Safety At Home

Dry drowning sounds scary, and it can be — especially if you have a pool or spa at home. How can you protect your kids when they’re around the water so often?

Start by creating a list of rules and making sure you communicate and educate. These should include:

  • Only swim with a partner or friend.
  • Make sure there is parental supervision.
  • No running around the pool.
  • Don’t play too roughly.
  • Don’t splash people too much or when they’re not expecting it.

The same applies to a hot tub or spa, but you also have to be careful about heat. That can build up quickly in a small body. You should also teach your kids to never play with the drains in a hot tub, stay underwater in a spa, or any horseplay in or near it. For more information on pool safety, read our guest blog from American Red Cross and download SafeKids’ pool safety poster with reminders and 5 must-have survival skills.

Safe & Smart Swimming

Thankfully, dry drowning is uncommon. However, every parent needs to know what this condition is, some of the signs, and how to live more safely with a pool or spa at your home. This can make a huge difference in your child’s life.

We want to know, have you ever heard of dry drowning? Share your comments below.

Guest post: Lindsay’s mission is aligned with that of Public Health Corps, which is to provide reputable and useful public information on health topics.

Copyright 2017 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

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