Healthy Living: Dangers of dry drowning

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Safety while on the water is on every parent's mind when their child is entering a lake, river, or pool. But many people don't realize that drowning can still happen when they're not on the water.

There are warnings signs of dry drowning, or secondary drowning, that every parent should watch for.

Florida mom Lacey Grace almost lost her 4-year-old daughter Elianna to dry drowning.

"I knew something was wrong," Grace said. "I just didn’t realize it was going to be that bad."

"She started shaking real bad, her skin was purple, her heart was racing, and her oxygen level was dropping."

Dry drowning happens when someone takes in a small amount of water through their nose or mouth, causing a spasm that makes the airways close up.

Secondary drowning - is similar - but the difference is when water gets into someone's lungs, causing inflammation and swelling. 

"If your child does end up being submerged underwater and has any difficulty with coughing, breathing or vomiting, you might want to consider having your child seen," said Dr. Jim Polo, executive medical director at Regence.

The scary part is that your child might seem fine after a water rescue, but within 24 hours, the symptoms could appear.

If your child's nostrils are flaring out, or you can see the space between their ribs - that is a sign that they're struggling to breathe.

Persistent coughing, fatigue, and vomiting are also signs that your child needs immediate medical attention.

Being aware of those signs is what caused Grace to rush her daughter to see a doctor after she swallowed too much water in their family pool.

"They did a quick chest x-ray right away and said ‘yeah, her lungs are swollen, they're infected, inflammation, she needs days’ worth of treatment," said Grace. 

After four terrifying days in the hospital, Elianna survived thanks to her mother's keen instincts. 

Dry drowning is rare and the good news is you will see the warning signs. Remember to always swim near a lifeguard, wear a life jacket, and if a child needs to be rescued from the water - contact your doctor right away.

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