What is Dry Drowning? Recognizing the Symptoms

This summer, be cautious around the swimming pool, so a day at the pool doesn’t end in tragedy.

Here are several tips on what to look for if you suspect someone may be victim to dry drowning:


The strange phenomenon known as “dry drowning” causes havoc among children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We tell you what it is and why it is so lethal.


Dry drowning occurs when a child – or sometimes an elderly person – swallows water that is lodged in the lungs while in a pool, tub or the sea, which produces a spasm in the throat after the fact. This happened to Frankie Delgado III (pictured) who was hit by a wave while playing in shallow water during a trip to Texas City Dike, a fishing and recreation area in Galveston Bay, for weekend festivities last May.

Tara and Francisco Delgado said their son recovered and seemed normal. For almost a week he had behaved normally, and was always energetic while playing with his father. But on June 3, “our world took a turn,” the parents said after the tragedy.

They reported that Frankie, who was a very happy child, woke up with sudden pain and showed signs that were similar to those of a stomach virus, including vomiting and diarrhea.

“He looked at me with pain that I had never seen before,” Francisco Delgado said. Then, he took a deep breath, his eyes turned and he fell back. He was taken to the hospital, but did not survive.

The Delgados say that doctors in the emergency room told them that the probable cause of death of the child was “dry drowning.” The CDC advised that every day 10 people die in the USA due to drowning, including cases like these.

In addition to common drowning, doctors distinguish two additional types. The so-called “dry” and “secondary” drowning; both are extremely rare, but dangerous. They have different causes and symptoms. Both often affect children, and they occur long after people have left the water. ” Dry drowning ” occurs when ”water is inhaled through the mouth or nose and the person has a spasm in the throat,” said nurse Penny Hanusa, who works at a hospital in Wisconsin, according to a NBC News report.

Dry drowning occurs when water is in the mouth or nose and causes the vocal cords to contract, trapping the water, causing the person to suffocate. According to the CDC, drowning is the fifth cause of death as a result of an unintentional act among people of all ages, including “dry drowning.”

The CDC also reported that drowning is the second leading cause of death in cases of accidents or injuries, among children from 1 to 14 years in the US, including this phenomenon — where water does not reach the lungs, although in small proportions it can cause an edema. Another symptom may be the change of color in the lips or fingers.

Secondary drowning, on the other hand, intensifies in 24 hours and occurs within individuals of all ages. While parents do not need to take their children to the emergency room every time they swallow a mouthful of water, they must watch for rapid and difficult breathing. Other signs of secondary drowning are lethargy; parents often report feeling that their child is somewhat “turned off.”

The lungs become irritated and begin to fill with fluid, causing breathing problems and coughing, doctors say. The person’s behavior can also change. You may feel more fatigued than usual. Doctors say all these are signs of a possible lack of oxygen-flow to the brain.

The best way to prevent this type of drowning is to teach children to swim, giving them the ability to breathe while they swim without swallowing the water. This in turn helps prevent classic drowning which is the second leading cause of accidental death in children, according to the CDC.

Experts also urge parents to pay attention to their children while swimming. That way, they may be able to see if their children have swallowed water. However, experts say that people do not necessarily have to be in the pool or the sea to swallow water because these types of drownings can occur simply by drinking water too quickly.

All this does not mean that drinking water is problematic. ”It is the person who continues to cough or who still has trouble breathing for long periods of time. Those people are the ones that worry us,” Dr. Paul Horvath of the Mayo Clinic, said in a NBC News report.

A basic but effective recommendation for parents and babysitters is to never leave a small child alone near water, regardless of whether it’s a bathtub, pool, pond, lake, hot tub or the sea. Also, take extra precautions and put fences around your pool.

A general warning is that an accident can happen in a matter of seconds.

Dr. Horvath refers to this as “aspiration pneumonia.” Note that its occurrence is not restricted to children and may even happen when taking a bath.

“In fact, I see it more commonly in the elderly, who have trouble swallowing; their swallowing mechanisms just do not work well and they end up sucking in. Finishing the food or the liquid by carrying it by saliva to their lungs,” Dr. Horvath explains.

“All I’m trying to do is spread awareness, because I do not want anyone to go through what we’re going through,” Delgado said. “He was not just my son; he was my best friend, and I miss him a lot.”

Photos given by the Delgado family show Frankie as a smiling and happy child with a great passion for the New York Mets.

He enjoyed wearing his Mets shirt, even while going to an Astros game in New York.

Frankie’s funeral was on Saturday, June 10, 2017.

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