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Friday, June 29, 2012

Dry Drowning - Every parent should read this!

Something scary happened at our house recently and we want to share it with you.  We are sharing this story because it has come to our attention that this is something that could save a life if it is known about.

Drowning is a huge problem, especially in the summer time. About 4,000 people drown each year and 1,400 of these are children. The CDC has no statistics on the number of dry drowning deaths.  25 people have drowned in 2012 (as of July 1, 2012)

Here is what happened the night of June 26, 2012 -All times are approximate

4:30 pm: Mom drops Codiemichael, Cynthia, and Nikki off at grandmas house for a few hours while she and dad attend session 9 of pride training.

7:00 pm: Cynthia and Nikki go swimming at grandmas while Codiemichael plays inside.

9:00 pm: Mom and dad arrive at grandmas to pick up the kids. Girls are in the pool while Codiemichael plays inside the house. Dad tells girls to clean up the pool toys.  Dad and Codiemichael help pick up toys on the patio while Cynthia and Nikki dove to the bottom of the deep end to retrieve toys.

9:15 pm: Cynthia comes up from the bottom of the pool saying she can’t breath. Dad pulls her out of the water. Cynthia is not able to stand up, speak clearly, breath easily or understand what is going on. Mom takes Cynthia to sit down while dad and Codiemichael help pick up the remaining toys. Mom and dad think that a combination of being tired and water pressure are contributing to her having a difficult time breathing.  Cynthia dries off and changes clothes on her own.

9:30 pm: Family is back at home preparing for bed. Cynthia comes downstairs and tells mom she is still having a difficult time breathing she was nauseous, and her legs were weak. She said that if she 'went down again I wouldn’t come back up' because she had breathed in a lot of water.

9:51 pm: Mom called utmb in Friendswood to talk to an on call nurse. Dad then took Cynthia to Clear Lake Emergency Care when nurse said to get her to hospital after being told of symptoms.

10:00pm: vitals 98% o2, bp 99/62

Chest x ray clear creatin low - probably dehydrated per nurse saul at clear lake er

Given pill under tongue for nausea.

11:58 pm: 98.4 temp, 93/57 bp 100% o2 nurse saul said she sounded clear

12:27 am transferred to Clear lake regional for further observation via windsor ambulance.  Taken to picu.

1:12 am 6/27/12 - 80 lbs, 4'9", 97.8 temp, 100/64 bp, pulse 80 bpm, sounds clear per nurse laura. Per cynthia: hurts to breath deep, legs hurt

3:00 am: sleeping soundly

1:00 pm 6/27/12 – Doctor says lungs sound good enough to not expose Cynthia to more radiation and she will be released around 4 after a few more hours of observation.

4:15 pm – Released!


More or less a mystery among the medical field, dry drowning is a delayed effect of a small amount of water in the lungs. This can occur when hitting the water forcefully (say, when exiting a steep waterslide or following a leap off a diving board), or simply from taking in too much while playing, as in our case. The result, which can occur minutes or hours after exiting the water, is constriction or spasm in the air passage and restricted breathing, potentially leading to respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest, and even brain death.

It can take a while for the process to occur and to set in and cause difficulties, because it is a lung process, difficulty breathing is the first sign that you would be worried about.”  All children react to unintended swallowing of water by coughing, sometimes crying, and eye rubbing. The thing parents should watch for is coughing which is persistent and continues for an extended period or often long after the water has been ingested. If this coughing continues for as much as 20-30 minutes it may well be an indication of water aspiration into the lungs. Parents should be especially concerned if the child has any of the risk factors above.

The second sign is extreme fatigue, which isn’t always easy to spot. “It’s very difficult to tell when your child is abnormally tired versus normal tired after a hot day and running around in the pool,” one researcher said. “The job of the lungs is to get oxygen into the blood and your brain needs oxygen to keep working, so when your brain isn’t getting oxygen, it can start doing funny things. One of them is becoming excessively tired, losing consciousness and the inability to be aroused appropriately.”

Finally, there are changes in behavior,  — another tough call when dealing with very small children, whose moods and behavior can change from one minute to the next.

The researcher admitted, “It is very difficult to pick this up sometimes.” But spotting the warning signs and getting a suspected victim to an emergency room can save a life, he added.

Children complaining of chest pain is very unusual. It is a strong indicator of ingested water and possible aspiration into the lungs. Be aware this is another symptom of dry drowning. Any other complaint of pain following water ingestion is a warning sign and is another symptom of dry drowning.

If the child demonstrates confusion, has trouble understanding verbal instructions or has difficulty verbalizing his/her own thoughts following accidental water intake he/she is demonstrating another symptom of drowning.

A sudden lack of energy or demonstration of extreme tiredness is a significant symptom. This is especially meaningful when seen in a normally active child.

Victims of dry drowning are treated by having a breathing tube inserted so that oxygen can be supplied under pressure to the lungs. “Then we just wait for the lung to heal itself,” he said.

Doctors suggest that when accidental water ingestion occurs that parent first consider whether their child has any of the high risks (above) for dry drowning. They should then keep their child nearby and observe intently, whether any of the above symptoms are demonstrated. If they are the child should be taken to a doctor or emergency room.

Doctors warn us that this is not a condition which can be treated at home or will go away with time. The only effective treatment is remove the water from the lungs and resupply oxygen to the lung as quickly as possible.

In the absence of timely medical treatment the spasmodic effect of the larynx may cause respiratory failure and eventually respiratory failure shutting off air supply to the lungs and later cardiac arrest.

Please be aware of the risk and symptoms and do not hesitate to get medical attention for any child demonstrating these.

While my daughter is a strong swimmer and very familiar with this pool, you can see that we nearly overlooked some very important warning signs because of the time of day (late at night), and the situation (she was tired from swimming for several hours).  I don’t send this to scare anyone, just to keep you aware. 

I would rather be an over protective parent, than a parent with regrets

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