Drowning on Dry Land
Parents are on high alert when it comes to time at the pool. After all, on average ten people a die day from accidental drowning, and children between the ages of one and four have the highest rate of drowning deaths. But near the water isn’t the only place parents should be on guard. Drowning can also happen on dry land. It’s called secondary drowning.
“Secondary drowning happens when a small amount of water gets into the lungs, but it’s not enough to cause drowning instantly,” says Scott McIntosh, M.D., and emergency room physician at University of Utah Hospital, “it isn’t until up to 72 hours later that the patient realizes something is wrong.” Water can get into the lungs in a variety of ways: from a mild drowning incident, or from a sudden rush of water into the airway like on a water slide or a dive into the pool. Initially the patient will appear to be fine, but as the water causes swelling in the lungs symptoms will begin to appear. “Watch for things like coughing, lethargy, chest pains, or problems breathing,” says McIntosh, “and if they appear, get to the emergency room immediately.”
If you don’t get to the emergency room immediately the swelling in the lungs could lead to decreased oxygen levels and complications including pulmonary edema, hypoxia, respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, or even death. But in the emergency room doctors can work to stop the swelling before that happens. “Patients are usually given oxygen, and we try to remove the water in the lungs using medications or positive pressure,” says McIntosh.
Secondary drowning is rare. However, if you and your kids spend a lot of time around water, it is something to keep on your radar. After all, pool safety doesn’t stop at the pool.
About the author:
Libby MItchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby.comments powered by Disqus