4 Signs of Dry Drowning (And How to Avoid It)

4 Signs of Dry Drowning (And How to Avoid It)

dry drowningHealth


“Treat dry or secondary drowning as a medical emergency. If you or someone you know starts exhibiting these signs, go to the hospital”. – Dr. Mark A. Mitchell, DO


We all know what it looks like when someone is actually in water and in the midst of drowning, and all the steps to prevent it. Unfortunately, the danger and threat of drowning doesn’t always end once your child has exited the water. ‘Dry drowning’ is when water is inhaled into the lungs, resulting in inflammation that makes it hard for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide.


These effects of dry drowning can be delayed up to 24 hours, which makes it difficult to spot. In worst case scenarios, the dry drowning can result in death. While this sounds terrifying, rest assured that dry drownings are exceedingly rare. All the same, if you feel that your child may be experiencing dry drowning, there are signs to look out for, and steps to prevent it.



If your child has been pulled out of the pool, make sure they get medical attention right away. A child recently rescued from having trouble with deep water could be at risk of having breathed water into their lungs. Even if they haven’t been recently rescued from the water, keep an eye out on children who have been playing in water, especially if they have been submerged. Even children who are proficient at swimming can be at risk.


Keep an eye out on children who have a persistent cough after having gone swimming in any body of water. The coughing will be a sign of trouble breathing and water in the lungs.


Children who have inhaled water into their lungs and are now suffering from inflammation will have increased “work of breathing”, which means they will be exhibiting rapid, shallow breaths and flared nostrils.


If your child goes from energized to exhausted after getting out of the pool, it could be a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen. Use your judgement on this one and make sure that your child is not exhibiting the other signs of dry drowning before allowing them to rest. Get a doctor’s approval before letting them sleep.



Throwing up is a sign that your child is in distress and not getting enough oxygen. It can also be caused by persistent coughing. If your child begins throwing up within 24 hours after getting out of the water, accompanied by the other symptoms, make sure to get them to a doctor.

If you are worried your child may be exhibiting signs of dry drowning, make sure to give your child’s doctor a call. They will be able to advise you on the signs and whether or not your child will need medical intervention. Treatment of dry drowning varies from mild to severe cases. Children may need careful monitoring, or they may need oxygen to help them breathe. The best way to make sure your child doesn’t have to experience dry drowning is to be proactive and prevent it.

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Even if your child knows how to swim, make sure to keep an eye on them during their time in the pool. If your child enjoys submerging themselves in the water, as most kids do, make sure you keep an extra eye on them for the signs of dry drowning after they have exited the water.



Teaching children how to swim can help them safely learn how to maneuver through the water and prevent them from accidentally going under and breathing water into their lungs.


If your child doesn’t know how to swim well in deeper water, you are going to want to make sure that they have water flotation devices on at all times. You should also make sure that pools and beaches have lifeguards on duty for an extra set of eyes. Standing water should not be left where a child can easily get in without your knowledge, such as a filled bathtub or blow up pool.

Dry drowning can be a scary situation, but there are ways to prevent it. After your child exits a pool or body of water, you can now keep an eye out for the symptoms that may help save their lives. If you are concerned, make sure to stay in contact with your child’s doctor, who will be able to help advise what steps should be taken after the signs of dry drowning emerge.

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