Secondary drowning: 6 things every mom should know

In a story that is pretty much every parent's worst nightmare, a 2-year-old Missouri girl began to drown in her sleep--hours after leaving a hotel pool.

Thankfully, Aliycea Sanders' parents were nearby when water began coming out of the young girl's nose and mouth. Even more luckily? Her mom had just seen a news segment on the phenomenon known as "secondary drowning" and knew just what to do. She rushed her to the hospital, where doctors were able to save her life, after confirming that the little Aliycea had been drowning even hours after getting out of the pool. It's a terrifying ordeal and a huge wake-up call for parents.

While secondary or "dry" drowning--as it's sometimes called--is rare, it is possible and a real danger, particularly during these hot summer months when a trip to the pool is a frequent occurrence. Here's what every parent needs to know about it:


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1. Secondary drowning occurs when someone breathes in small amounts of water during a struggle (such as if they almost drowned in the pool or a from sudden rush of water). That causes the muscles in their airway to spasm and the fluid to build up in the lungs, making breathing difficult.

2. Typical symptoms of secondary drowning include trouble breathing, chest pain and cough, as well as sudden changes in behavior and extreme fatigue. These signs can be difficult to spot, since many parents chalk it up to kids being exhausted from a day in the sun. But if your child has problems in the water and then seems to be struggling after, make sure to keep an eye out for any of these red flags.  

3. A person can be out of the water and walking around seemingly normal for hours and even a full day before any signs of dry drowning occur. But just as with in-water drowning, all secondary drowning causes problems with breathing and a slight brain injury. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

4. Dry drowning is extremely uncommon. It only accounts for about 1 to 2 percent of drowning.

5. To treat dry drowning, take your child to the hospital as fast as possible, where they'll likely get treated with a ventilation mask. Time is of the essence, so go immediately upon noticing these signs.

6. The best way to prevent secondary drowning is to practice water safety. Keep an extremely close eye on your children in the pool, especially inexperienced swimmers, and teach them to blow out water and not panic if they accidentally get stuck underneath.

Image via Thinkstock

Topics: kids  parents and children  parenting  safety  drowning