secondary drowningImagine your child somehow falls into a swimming pool and, horrified but completely alert, you immediately pull him out and rescue him. After some coughing and maybe a bit of crying, the child seems perfectly fine. Crisis averted, right? Well, not necessarily. It turns out there's another medical condition called secondary drowning which can also be fatal. Secondary drowning, which happens when a small amount of water seeps into the lungs, can occur from one to 48 hours after any water has been aspired--be it at the pool, in the ocean, or in the bathtub. Frightening, right?

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Awareness about the dangers of secondary drowning has increased in recent weeks after Lindsay Kujawa published a post on her parenting blog, DelightedMomma.com, on May 20 sharing her own nightmarish experience. During a family pool party, Kujawa was briefly distracted and, in a matter of seconds, her toddler Ronin fell into the nearby spa. Kujawa noticed almost immediately and, terrified, pulled her son out and made sure he was breathing regularly and that all his vitals were normal.

Everything seemed okay but, a few hours later, once they had returned home from the party, Kujawa noticed Ronin seemed out of sorts, making an unusual coughing sound and generally acting sluggish. Baffled and concerned, she phoned Ronin's pediatrician and left a message explaining what had transpired and describing the child's symptoms. Within minutes, the doctor called her back and urged her to take Ronin to the emergency room immediately, briefly explaining that the child could be displaying the symptoms of secondary drowning.

Once in the emergency room, Kujawa learned that Ronin's lungs had aspirated water. He was transferred to a children's hospital. During the ride over, his oxygen levels began to drop and an oxygen mask had to be placed over his face. Once at the hospital, several additional chest X-rays followed and the young boy was hooked up to an array of machines meant to provide him with oxygen, monitor his heart rate, and so forth. Thankfully, the water in Ronin's lung began to clear and, despite some irritation and inflammation, he began to show signs of recovery. He was eventually discharged from the hospital and given a clean bill of health.

Though Kujawa tends to shy away from sharing very personal experiences on her blog, she decided to write the post so that other parents could be aware of the dangers of secondary drowning. Although relatively rare, secondary drowning is particularly dangerous because the onset can happen so long after the near-drowning experience. According to UCLA Medical Group pediatrician Jennifer Yeung, children who aspire as little as 4 ounces of water could be at risk of secondary drowning. Should an aspiration event transpire, then, parents are encouraged to visit the emergency room immediately so that children can be monitored--even if they aren't displaying any symptoms. And, of course, when your kids are near any body of water, keep your eyes glued on them at all times!

Image via Thinkstock

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About the author

Celia is the founder of the beauty and fashion blog SickaThanAverage.com, an on-air expert for Telemundo and Univision, and a seasoned journalist whose previous editorial posts include stints at In Style, The New York Post, VIBE and Complex. She lives in N.Y.C. with her husband, 10-year-old son, and an obscenely large collection of shoes.

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