“I had never known a child could walk around, talk, speak, and their lungs be filled with water,” a heartbroken mother told the “Today” show. Cassandra Jackson was devastated when her 10-year-old son Johnny died from drowning while in his own bed, long after he had exited the swimming pool.
According to Jackson, her son had been acting quite normally after he finished swimming in June 2008. The two walked home together from the pool, Jackson clarifying that her son had walked with her, and that she had bathed him when they returned to the house. She recollects that her son had mentioned being tired, but Jackson saw nothing out of the ordinary about this — many children feel fatigued after swimming or playing. When she went to check on Johnny after he had laid down for a nap, however, she found him unresponsive with “spongy, white material” covering his mouth.
After being rushed to a nearby hospital, Johnny was pronounced dead, and the coroner listed the cause of death as “asphyxiation by drowning,” according to the “Today” show. Jackson was baffled by this piece of information — she had never heard of dry drowning, but Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Capt. Bob Lindsey told the “Today” show that dry drowning accounts for about 10 percent to 15 percent of drownings nationwide. Though it is certainly rare, dry drowning is not unheard-of.
WebMD states that dry drowning occurs when water is breathed into the lungs, and though it could happen to adults as well as children, it’s far more common in children due to their smaller size. According to WebMD, in dry drowning, water does not actually make it to the lungs, but rather, “water causes your child’s vocal cords to spasm and close up after he’s already left the pool, ocean, or lake. That shuts off his airways, making it hard to breathe.”
Signs of dry drowning to look for in your child in the immediate time after they exit a pool, as described by WebMD, include coughing, chest pain, extreme fatigue/tiredness, trouble breathing, and changes in behavior (such as increased irritability). If you do notice these symptoms, it’s important to pay close attention to your child and act quickly if the symptoms worsen. Raymond Pitetti, associate medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, told WebMD that if the symptoms don’t subside on their own and are getting worse, it’s best to seek out emergency facilities and skip the pediatrician. He said, “Your child will need a chest X-ray, an IV, and be admitted for observation. That can’t be done in an office.”
Many parents are unaware that dry drowning is even a threat and wouldn’t know how to recognize the symptoms if necessary. Learning about dry drowning is a great first step toward avoiding tragedy, but WebMD suggests water-safety classes for children as a preventive method.
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