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Dry drowning can be deadly

If you take your young children swimming in a pool this summer, it's important to keep safety as your primary focus. Lifeguards who are present do their best to watch out for kids in distress in the water, but there is one condition that can go unnoticed — dry drowning.

Many people have never heard of this deadly plight, and thankfully, it remains fairly rare. But without immediate medical treatment, it can become life-threatening.

Dry drowning is the delayed effect caused by water being aspirated into the lungs, causing deadly fluctuations of the oxygen saturation in the blood. Often this condition emerges in kids and even adults who have experienced a near-drowning event. But this is not always the scenario. Dry drowning can result from a day spent in the water swimming or merely splashing around.

Because of the lack of observable symptoms, dry drowning isn't easily diagnosed by lay persons. But delaying treatment increases the mortality rate.

Lifeguards and parents should be particularly aware of children who have had their faces or heads immersed in the water. Seeing a child, even one with swimming skills, come up sputtering or gasping for air after being dunked or going underwater could be the first indication of a future emergency.

Signs and symptoms of the condition include:

-- Chest pain

-- Problems with breathing

-- Mood changes after an episode in the water

-- Decreased energy or increased agitation

-- Confusion

-- Skin that turns bluish or grayish

-- Limited ability to communicate

-- Coughing, crying or sweating

-- Shallow breaths

Dry drowning is a medical emergency that can occur up to a day after aspirating even a small amount of water. Aggressively treating the early symptoms can avert tragedy.

Lifeguards should be alert to this potentially deadly occurrence and stay alert at all times. They should rigidly enforce the no dunking and no horseplay pool rules and never allow electronic devices or conversations to divert their attention from those in the pool.

If you believe that your child was a victim of dry drowning due to a negligent lifeguard, you may have a cause of action to bring a civil suit against him or her.

Source:, "Dry Drowning Symptoms in Toddlers and Infants," accessed July 02, 2015

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