What is Dry Drowning?

Drowning occurs when water enters the airways and causes asphyxiation. But drowning, both fatal and non-fatal incidents of it, is not the only danger of swimming or playing in the water. As a parent or someone who enjoys spending time at the pool, you should know about the dangers of “dry drowning” and “secondary drowning.”

What Causes Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning is a dangerous health condition that happens when water is inhaled but does not enter the lungs. The water goes into the throat, esophagus, sinuses, and mouth, causing irritation that causes the throat to clench. In some cases, this clenching will cause the vocal cords to shut, essentially stopping the victim from breathing.

Children are more likely to suffer from dry drowning because they are smaller and may have a more difficult time coughing up water than an adult. If your child has an accident in the water and complains of breathing difficulties, then they might be suffering from dry drowning.

The symptoms of dry drowning should be immediate. It is not a condition that can happen hours later because the water in the airway would either be coughed up or swallowed into the stomach. If someone cannot cough up inhaled water or still feels labored when breathing after coughing, then you should head to the emergency room or call 911.

What is Secondary Drowning?

Secondary drowning is even more dangerous than dry drowning in most cases. It occurs when water gets into the lungs, but it is not enough to cause immediate asphyxiation such as in a typical drowning incident. Instead, drowning-like symptoms can begin within the next 4 to 24 hours as the water damages the inner lining of the lungs. If too much damage occurs, then the lungs cannot process oxygen as normal, and the victim will asphyxiate.

Can You Sue for Dry Drowning?

Yes, if you or someone you loved suffered a dry drowning or secondary drowning injury, and it was caused by another party’s negligence, then you might be able to sue them for damages. For example, if your child was allowed to play in someone else’s pool unsupervised and suffered dry drowning injuries, then the person who owned that pool could be liable. You should speak with a local attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
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