Whether you're a parent, grandparent, caregiver or sibling, you should know drowning is the second leading cause of death among children. Yet, while we are vigilant about protecting children from water accidents and drowning, a condition known as dry drowning or delayed drowning can go unnoticed. In fact, most people aren't even aware it exists. Dry drowning defined Dry drowning is a side-effect of a near-drowning experience and includes spasms of the vocal cords and larynx — known as a laryngospasm. This occurs when the body attempts to shut down the passage of any liquid into the lungs. Unfortunately, it can also shut down the passage of air into the lungs and force fluid into the stomach and lungs. Often the condition is not discovered until it's too late — severe cases can cause death within one to 24 hours after a water incident occurs. Who is susceptible? Novice or first-time swimmers are at increased risk, as are children with asthma and known breathing issues. In addition, children who have had pneumonia or experienced acute respiratory distress syndrome are also at greater risk. To reduce these factors, caregivers should be exceptionally watchful of inexperienced swimmers. According to Leland Sullivan, MD, of Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians, children under the age of 5 are most susceptible to drowning and often drown in residential swimming pools. Infants less than 1-year-old most often drown in bathtubs. What are the signs of a dry drowning episode? If your child has a near-drowning incident, a few moments of coughing until they calm down is normal. However, you should know the more severe signs and symptoms to watch for during the 24 hours following the incident, including: Persistent coughing Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath Chest pains Extreme fatigue and/or lethargy Change in typical behavior Face becomes pale What is the treatment and prognosis for dry drowning? Dr. Sullivan recommends that all victims of near-drowning incidents seek medical attention, even if they have no symptoms. If caught early, dry drowning can be treated. If you think your child is experiencing a dry drowning episode, go to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible — do not attempt treatment at home. Healthcare professionals will work to supply oxygen to your child's lungs to restore and regulate breathing.
Northern Nevada is home to some of the most gorgeous and pristine lakes in the country — but also some of the most unforgiving. Lake Tahoe water temperatures average 50 degrees in the summer, making the danger of hypothermia real and always present. Here are the signs, symptoms and ways to prevent cold water drowning. When we think of air temperature at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s not all that cold. But when it comes to water that’s 50 degrees, there is no comparison. Immersion in cold water is life threatening and can happen within a minute. Taking the right precautions before entering the water can save your life. The 4 Phases of Cold Water Drowning 1. Cold Shock Response: This response affects breathing and happens within the first minute. An automatic gasp reflex occurs in response to rapid skin cooling. If the head goes below water, water may be breathed into the lungs, resulting in drowning. A life jacket will help keep your head above water during this critical phase. Additionally, hyperventilation, like the gasp reflex, is a response to the cold and will subside. Panic will make this worse, so the key is to control breathing. 2. Cold Incapacitation: This response occurs within the first five to 15 minutes in cold water. In order to preserve core heat, vasoconstriction takes place decreasing blood flow to the extremities to protect the vital organs. The result is a loss of movement to hands, feet, arms and legs. Unless a life jacket is being worn, the ability to stay afloat is next to impossible. 3. Hypothermia: Important to note, it can take 30 minutes or more for most adults to become hypothermic. So there’s time to take action and survive. Keeping panic at bay is critical, as you have more survival time than you think. Symptoms include: Shivering Slow and shallow breathing Confusion Drowsiness or exhaustion Slurred speech Loss of coordination Weak pulse 4. Circum-rescue Collapse: This experience can happen just before rescue and is not well understood. Symptoms range anywhere from fainting to death. Some experts believe an abrupt drop in blood pressure may cause this final stage of cold water drowning, post-rescue. Additional Cold Water Drowning Safety Tips and Helpful Resources Always wear a personal flotation device as well as a wetsuit or drysuit. Your personal flotation device is the most important piece of water safety gear. Try not to panic as the first phases will subside. Controlled breathing is to staying calm. Research suggests the body can withstand the cold longer than we think. The Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP) is a position which helps conserve energy if you’re wearing a personal flotation device. By hugging your knees to your chest, this posture helps maintain body heat for some time.