Quandary: Dry and secondary drownings occur out of water | SummitDaily.com

Quandary: Dry and secondary drownings occur out of water


Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to Quandary@summitdaily.com.

Dear Quandary,

I have never heard of dry drowning before. What is it?

I know, it sounds like a bad yo-mama joke — “Yo mama so dumb she can drown on dry land” ­— but sadly that really is possible. First off, this is a very rare occurrence so no need to make T-shirts and create a national day of recognition just yet. However, dry and secondary drowning do account for 1-2 percent of all drowning incidents, according to WebMD. Both types of drowning mostly affect children simply because of their small size. In dry drownings, when a child breathes in water it gets trapped in their vocal chords and after leaving the water the vocal chords spasm, making it difficult to breathe, but water never actually enters into the lungs.

Secondary drownings can take place an hour to 24 hours after leaving water. In this instance water does reach the lungs, as a child’s airways open up letting water in and causing pulmonary edema. Both events are most likely to happen after a child has struggled in the water and has started to suck in water, but it is possible that even a quick dunking could lead to dry drowning. In both cases a child might experience coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing or feeling tired. The symptoms are likely to be mild and go away on their own, but it is still best to get medical attention if you notice any issues. After 24 hours of ongoing symptoms, a medical professional will likely recommend a chest x-ray and might even admit your child for observation. If symptoms are severe, a chest tube may need to be inserted to help with breathing.

There is no drug therapy or other treatment to reverse the effects, so your best bet on either side of a drowning incident is to be observant. Watch your kids anytime they are in water and make sure — literally and figuratively — they aren’t in over their heads. While just chucking your kids in the water may have been an appropriate test of skill back in the day, it may not be the most effective way to keep your kids safe around water. Swimming lessons at the beginning of the summer can go a long way toward a happy and healthy season. Being aware of whether your swimming hole has a lifeguard or not, and of course, the appropriate personal flotation device if you are on the river or lake are all ways to stay ahead of the game. Even if your youngster isn’t the next Michael Phelps, a little bit of practice is important in case he finds himself in an unexpected situation. For example, few rafters intend on taking a swim, but even fewer don’t know how to swim. As with all things, don’t only prepare for what you expect, otherwise you might find yourself soaking wet and utterly shocked. Common sense is also important to engrain in your kids. As WebMD points out, it is possible to drown in a toilet bowl. No amount of swimming lessons or PFDs will save you from that fate. Let that sink in.

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