Dry Drowning

Hey Doc!

19 Jun 2017

Why is Dry Drowning making the news?


On June 3rd, 2017, a week after swimming on a family vacation, a 4-year-old child died suddenly. The family was informed that the cause of death was due to a rare delayed physical reaction to inhaling water called “Dry Drowning”.

Hey Doc!

Should I be concerned about Dry Drowning?


In the medical community, emergency departments and doctors’ offices are getting many visits from parents worried about dry drowning. Dry drowning/secondary drowning is incredibly rare but it is an emergency when it does happen.

What is Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning is almost always preceded by a “near drowning” episode. The term “dry drowning” is used interchangeably with “secondary drowning”. Both involve inhalation of a small amount of water. In “dry drowning”, water inhalation causes intense spasm of the airway which prevents movement of air into the lungs. Symptoms are usually immediate. “Secondary drowning”, inhalation of a small amount of water causes inflammation and scarring of e lung tissue. Symptoms are usually delayed.


Doctor, I’m even more confused!

“I was at the pool this morning with my 5-year-old. He jumped in the pool, was submerged briefly and choked on some water. He appears to be okay, however I’m worried”.

Let us try to alleviate some of your fears:

a. Dry Drowning is an incredibly rare phenomenon.
b. It is almost always preceded by a near drowning episode.

Symptoms to look out for include:

• Forceful cough after coming out of the water.
• Persistent cough/worsening cough
• Struggle breathing/labored breathing
• Extreme fatigue
• Vomiting
• Altered mental status

See our upcoming blog on Water Safety!

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