What you need to know about ‘dry drowning’

Austin

As pools in neighborhoods and parks start to open up, doctors are trying to ease some fears. 

Social media posts are circulating in parent groups about the dangers of “dry drowning,” which doctors say doesn’t exist.

“Dry drowning is a term that we no longer use,” said Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Dell Children’s Medical Center Eric Higginbotham. “I think the term gets misused because kids can aspirate water or get water in the lungs and then they can develop things like pneumonia.”

Dr. Higginbotham says those symptoms can develop pretty quickly over a matter of hours.

“You don’t see a week later someone having death from drowning. I think it’s confusing because sometimes kids can have a drowning event so they go under … some water and then over the course of a couple hours is when the lungs don’t function right.”

Dell Children’s says last year they had about 38 near-drownings. A majority occurred in swimming and community pools. 

Alissa Magrum is the executive director of Colin’s Hope. She said parents need to stop focusing on something that’s not real and instead educate themselves about drowning. The non-profit was founded after Colin Holst drowned in a pool. 

Magrum said the medical definition of drowning is “respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid,” and the outcome can be fatal or not fatal.

“Basically, the drowning process begins in water and the outcome can occur in water (as in most cases) or it can occur after leaving the water (as in some cases that have been recently described as dry, secondary or delayed drowning),” Magrum said. 

People should pay attention to symptoms like trouble breathing, chest pain, persistent coughing, low energy, extreme sleepiness, irritability or acting unusual. Colin’s Hope is partnering with FCB Health Tuesday to launch a website that provides resources and details about the issue.

She also emphasizes wearing life jackets, taking swim lessons and making sure you are an arm’s reach away from your kids in water.

 “We challenge people to be a water guardian and that means watching kids around water,” Magrum said. “Drowning is fast, drowning is silent, drowning is preventable.”

Colin’s Hope stocks life jackets at a loaner station they helped set up at Lakeway City Park. Swimmers can borrow one and then return it. Loaner stations have also popped up at Mansfield Dam Park, Bob Wintz Park, Hamilton Pool and Lake Georgetown.

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