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With the swimming season coming up, it’s important to keep water safety in mind for your kids. Any depth of water can result in drowning, even if the drowning is delayed. However, the signs of drowning are always immediate, and when treated immediately do not have to be fatal.

What is delayed drowning?

Delayed drowning isn’t actually a medical term, nor are the terms “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning.” However, they do refer to real conditions that can threaten your kids.

Dry drowning is when the water never reaches your kid’s lungs but get into their vocal chords causing them to swell and close off the airways.

Secondary drowning is when a small amount of water gets into your kid’s lungs, which irritates them and causes fluid to build up, later drowning them.

Either type of delayed drowning has immediate signs but is extremely rare. Only 1%-2% of all drownings are delayed.

What are the signs of delayed drowning?

Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and extreme fatigue. How can you tell if your child simply swallowed a bit of water or are in a life-threatening situation? After all, almost all of us have been dunked or knocked over by a wave and come up spluttering. Non-threatening symptoms should resolve themselves almost immediately. If the symptoms persist or start getting worse within the first 24 hours, take your child immediately to the ER.

To determine if your child is in any danger, they will need to receive an x-ray and go under observation, which cannot be done in a pediatrician’s office.

How can you prevent delayed drowning?

Child supervision is the most important thing to prevent any type of drowning. Tragically, 9 out of 10 cases of children drowning happen with a parent present. Make sure you are always within arm’s reach of your child, and watch out for breathing issues, extreme tiredness (which is a sign of not enough oxygen reaching the brain) and any other odd changes your child may have.

Child drowning, whether immediate or delayed, is horrifying, but it’s important to realize it’s also extremely rare. Educating yourself to recognize the signs can allow them to receive proper treatment in time. Prevention is the most important step to take though, so make sure you never leave your child alone with water, whether in the pool or in the bath.