In a matter of just a few weeks, three drownings claimed the lives of metro area teenagers. But, a condition that many don’t yet know about, surfaces well after you leave the pool, beach or lake. It’s called dry drowning.
“This is the child that goes under comes back up - they're coughing, sputtering a little bit, but then they're fine," explained Dr. Amanda Emke, assistant professor of pediatric critical care medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Emke said it takes longer to notice the symptoms of dry drowning. But, that you should watch for sleepiness and how the child is breathing.
“Is your child breathing fast, are they breathing shallow meaning taking these really small quick breaths or does it look like they're working hard when they're trying to breath," said Emke, with regard to the symptoms of dry drowning.
Certified lifeguard and swim instructor Rayna Sullivan said swim lessons, even as early as infancy, can make all the difference.
"If you're struggling in the water, try to rest on your back and then float,” suggests Sullivan. “Because the body naturally floats if you put your head back in the water." Sullivan has been working at Mathew’s Dickey for the last seven years, and suggests floating on your back with arms crossed across your chest or paddling by your side. Treading water, she says, is another good way for swimmers of all levels to stay afloat.
“You move your legs in a circular motion and your hands at the same time, it's all a synchronized position,” she said.
Symptoms to look out for include:
-Quick, shallow breaths, hard to break when they’re trying to breath
-Nose flaring: when the sides of the nose go in and out with every breath
-Retractions: when the skin between the ribs or collarbone sinks in every time one takes a breath
-If the person makes a “grunting” noise every time they breathe in and out
-Persistent coughing following a day at the pool
In dry drowning, water never actually reaches the lungs. If the water does reach the lungs, it becomes known as secondary or delayed drowning. When the water reaches the lungs hours or days later, it triggers pulmonary edema, which is where fluid gathers in air sacks in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
Pulmonary edema can prove fatal, like the case in Texas.
Water Safety Tips:
-Rest/float on your back, cross your arms across your chest or keep them by your sides and paddle
-Tread water; keep arms and legs synchronize