Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Have you ever heard of Dry Drowning?

I got a forward about a 10-year-old boy from South Carolina who drowned more than an hour after he went swimming. He even walked home from the pool! Drowning is certainly something parents think about this time of year. I am sure you've heard your kids can drown in less than one inch of water. But drowning more than an hour after your child gets out of the pool? That's not something I have ever worried about!

Here is part of the story from NBC:

The tragic death of a South Carolina 10-year-old more than an hour after he had gone swimming has focused a spotlight on the little-known phenomenon called “dry drowning” — and warning signs that every parent should be aware of. “I’ve never known a child could walk around, talk, speak and their lungs be filled with water,” Cassandra Jackson told NBC News in a story broadcast Thursday on TODAY.

On Sunday, Jackson had taken her son, Johnny, to a pool near their home in Goose Creek, S.C. It was the first time he’d ever gone swimming — and, tragically, it would be his last. At some point during his swim, Johnny got some water in his lungs. He didn’t show any immediate signs of respiratory distress, but the boy had an accident in the pool and soiled himself. Still, Johnny, his sister and their mother walked home together. “We physically walked home. He walked with me,” Jackson said, still trying to understand how her son could have died. “I bathed him, and he told me that he was sleepy.”

Later, she went into his room to check on him. “I walked over to the bed, and his face was literally covered with this spongy white material,” she said. “And I screamed.” A family friend, Christine Meekins, was visiting and went to see what was wrong. “I pulled his arm and said, ‘Johnny! Johnny!’ ” Meekins told NBC. “There was no response. I opened one of his eyes and I just knew inside my heart that it was something really bad.”

Johnny was rushed to a local hospital, but it was too late. Johnny had drowned, long after he got out of the swimming pool. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 3,600 people drowned in 2005, the most recent year for which there are statistics. Some 10 to 15 percent of those deaths was classified as “dry drowning,” which can occur up to 24 hours after a small amount of water gets into the lungs. In children, that can happen during a bath.

Dr. Daniel Rauch, a pediatrician from New York University Langone Medical Center, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that there are warning signs that every parent should be aware of. Johnny Jackson exhibited some of them, but unless a parent knows what to look for, they are easily overlooked or misinterpreted.

Three Important Signs of Dry Drowning:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Changes in behavior
  • All are the result of reduced oxygen flow to the brain.

Rauch said that the phenomenon of dry drowning is not completely understood. But medical researchers say that in some people, a small amount of inhaled water can have a delayed-reaction effect. “It can take a while for the process to occur and to set in and cause difficulties,” Rauch said. Victims of dry drowning are treated by having a breathing tube inserted so that oxygen can be supplied under pressure to the lungs.

Here's more on what to look for from ABC affiliate WJBF-TV:

Claudia Collins, Augusta Family Y Lifeguard Instructor said, "First things first: if you see someone having trouble, fighting to keep their head above water... Get them out of the water, get them calmed down, get them able to breathe well, and not have any problems."

If you do notice breathing problems, be aware. Just because they didn't drown, doesn't mean they're out of danger.

Claudia Collins: "If a child has an event while they're in the water, they're gasping, coughing, difficulty breathing, they tell you they're short of breath, that's probably somebody that's aspirated water." Even then, the child could be okay, but after what's called a near-drowning event, pay close attention to the child.

Dr. James Wilde, MCG Emergency Medicine: "If the child's complaining of difficulty breathing as you're going home, being sleepy, those are the symptoms of a near-drowning. That patient needs to be taken right to the hospital. That person needs to be monitored and may need to be put on a ventilator in case their breathing gets worse." Dr. James Wilde says parents should not think swallowing a bunch of water is going to harm their child in the same way as a near-drowning event, which can be fatal hours after the child leaves the water.

Wilde said, "Initial drowning event damages the lungs and then, in response, the lungs fill up with fluid and that's what event can kill you if you don't get medical attention." Dr. Wilde has treated a patient before who was the victim of a near-drowning, and initially checked out okay. But, 2 hours later, still at the hospital, her condition drastically dropped. She survived, but without that medical treatment, could have become a drowning victim, herself.

Dehydrating in the water is more common during the summer. It sounds unlikely, but experts say you lose 6 ounces of water every hour you're in the water.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.


Lyn said...

This is so tragic.
Thank you for posting this so people can, at the very least, become more aware of this and keep an eye on their children for signs of dry drowning to prevent it from happening to other children.

Shannon said...

Wow... I've never heard of this. Thank you for posting this. My heart just breaks for that mother.

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