Recently and once again there has been another news story making its rounds across all social media platforms scaring the wits out of moms all across America that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks immediately. As you know, “dry” or “secondary” drowning are hot topics thanks to mainstream media outlets who refuse to acknowledge the scientific facts on this subject. A few years ago the subject of “dry” drowning was first seen on Facebook that caused a surge of many moms taking their kids to the emergency room because they thought their children would die after swimming. Sounds crazy right?
The headline getting attention reads, “Mother Takes To Social Media To Warn Others Of Dry Drowning”. This particular story takes readers to Florida where a mother of a young girl had to take her daughter to a local hospital emergency room for a medical issue arising from a swimming pool incident. This incident was not as a result of a drowning!
“A 4-year-old girl nearly died from “dry drowning” after she inhaled water in her family’s swimming pool in southwestern Florida, her mother said.
Elianna Grace, 4, was with family members in their backyard pool in Bradenton, Florida, on April 14. The little girl was playing a game where she would blow water at them through a pool noodle — a hollow, foam tube that floats in the water.
When someone went to blow water back at her, they didn’t realize Elianna was already on the other end of the noodle and blew water into her mouth, according to the girl’s mother, Lacey Grace, who said it was a “freak accident.”
Elianna immediately threw up after swallowing the pool water. But about 30 minutes later, she seemed fine and was back to playing, her mother said.
Two days later, Elianna came down with a fever that wouldn’t go away. Lacey Grace said she recalled reading about a 4-year-old Texas boy who died last year from a rare condition called “dry drowning,” hours after he had inhaled water while swimming. Fearing the same could happen to her little girl, Lacey Grace took her daughter to the nearby Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Center last Wednesday.
“Honestly, on the way to the urgent care, I kind of thought I was overreacting and was truly expecting them to say, ‘Her lungs sound great, it’s just viral, she just needs to rest,'” Lacey Grace told ABC News in an interview Monday.
But while being checked out by a doctor, Elianna’s heart rate suddenly sped up, her oxygen levels dropped and her skin turned purple. The doctor told Lacey Grace to get her daughter to the closest emergency room as soon as possible, she said.
“I could sense the immediate concern written all over his face, so that was the first time I truly broke down,” Lacey Grace told ABC News, adding that she and her daughter were “both crying together.”
“At that point, I had no clue how it was going to end,” she said. “I was so, so, so terrified.”
Lacey Grace called her husband as she rushed their eldest daughter to the emergency room at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, where she said a chest x-ray showed inflammation and an infection in Elianna’s lungs caused by the chemicals in the pool water.
The toddler appeared to be slowly suffering from “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning,” the mother said. Both are rare drowning complications that share many symptoms, but the former usually occurs soon after water is inhaled while the latter can occur hours later.
Two hours later, Elianna was transferred by ambulance to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She was treated for aspiration pneumonia, secondary to pool water ingestion, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The little girl was in the hospital for four days, where she relied on an oxygen tank to breathe and received round-the-clock care.
Lacey Grace, who also has a 23-month-old daughter, said her coworkers have kindly set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Elianna’s extensive medical bills.
Elianna was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon, exactly one week after inhaling the pool water. Lacey Grace said her daughter is “doing well” and “getting better everyday,” though she’s still not quite her self.
“I’ve already seen drastic improvements with her,” Lacey Grace told ABC News. “If we could get her to eat better and stop being so lethargic, I would consider her back to her normal self.”
“We’re currently still waiting for that day right now,” she added.
Here is a link to the original story however the title was changed, http://abcnews.go.com/US/mom-terrified-year-girl-died-dry-drowning-inhaling/story?id=54662197
Since this initial story was posted, many mainstream news outlets have picked up this story and even many doctors are chiming in on it however we are here along with other aquatics experts trying to make sure the real facts are presented. We are also trying to alleviate any and all unwarranted fears sweeping the nation right now with unnecessary trips to the emergency room. What you are hearing is fear mongering being perpetuated by mainstream media.
For starters, “dry drowning” and “secondary drowning” are not accepted medical terms. Anyone using those terms are not well educated in this area and need to accept American Red Cross experts call to cease using these terms. Many experts, including emergency room doctors, Starfish Aquatics Institute, United States Lifesaving Association, the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, and the CDC, say there’s a big problem with these terms, which are confusing and “unduly alarming” parents all across the nation.
“Readers will find many other terms relating to drowning, such as near drowning, dry drowning, wet drowning and secondary drowning, which are no longer endorsed by medical experts,” Dr. Marc Taub, the director of the emergency department at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, tells SheKnows. “Although use of these terms is discouraged, they do bring attention to the potential for serious organ damage or death to occur later after the incident.”
What people refer to as dry drowning is really the delayed inflammatory response to water entering the lungs, Dr. Robert Liou, a pulmonologist at Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, California, said.
So here’s what happens with so called “dry drowning”, when people swallow water into their lungs, it can cause the vocal cord to close even though the natural response is coughing. Coughing against a closed vocal cord can sometimes lead to inflammation in the lungs, Liou says, causing the lungs to fill up with fluid over the next few days.
“Think of it like the swelling and redness that comes up after a minor paper cut,” he adds.
The buildup of fluid in the lungs can cause the patient to essentially suffocate because the lungs will not be able to get oxygen into the body because of the swelling, which people frequently refer to as dry drowning. That happens when people swallow a lot of water into their lungs, but not enough that would cause them to drown immediately.
The salt content of pool water/ocean water is usually not to the same as the salt content in the lungs. Swallowing a significant amount of salt water/pool water into the lungs could cause a water shift inside the lungs, leading to the lungs being flooded with water due to the difference in salt contents between the lungs and salt/pool water. If this happens, oxygen wouldn’t be able to get into the body, leading to respiratory failure and sometimes death.
So what is drowning?
For the sake of simplifying the true medical terminology, drowning is…drowning. The official definition of drowning is “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” It’s important to understand, though, that drowning can have three different outcomes. Drowning can result in:
- Fatal drowning (Death is caused by drowning)
- Nonfatal drowning with injury or illness (Patient survives drowning but has some type of bodily damage)
- Nonfatal drowning without injury or illness (Patient survives without bodily damage)
Instead of associating drowning immediately with death, the medical community looks at drowning as a spectrum, ranging from mild damage to death.
What Is Dry Drowning?
So, what is this so-called dry drowning, and what are the symptoms of dry drowning? Because dry drowning has never been an accepted medical term, it’s challenging to describe what has been largely influenced by different media sources.
Dry drowning was previously used to describe the lungs of drowning victims that contained no water during autopsy. This happens in 10-20% of drowning cases, and may be related to laryngospasm. However, we know that very little water actually enters the lungs during most drownings (usually less than 2mL/kg, for reference that’s less than one ounce in a child who weighs 33lbs). So, this is what parents need to remember: in drowning situations, the main medical problem is lack of oxygen to the brain. Whether there is water in the lungs or no water in the lungs at the time of drowning, the problem is still a lack of oxygen to the brain. The wet versus dry terminology is irrelevant, and because it doesn’t change the treatment, drowning specialists no longer use these distinctions.
Dry drowning has also been used interchangeably with secondary drowning. Secondary drowning is not a medically accepted term, either, but it carries a fearful connotation for many parents that children can inhale a small amount of water and die days later. Biologically this concept revolves around a disease process called pneumonitis. When children aspirate (inhale) water, it can disrupt the surfactant lining of the lungs. Sometimes this can trigger inflammation and fluid build-up in the lungs.
The take-home message we want parents to know about so-called secondary drowning symptoms is this: This is very rare. You don’t have to be overly fearful of “missing” pneumonitis in your child. You won’t accidentally overlook it. This isn’t a situation where you feel guilty because your kid fell down, looked fine, and you waited too long to get an x-ray of their unknowingly broken arm. Children experiencing pneumonitis will have clear, worsening symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, inability to catch their breath, vomiting, extreme fatigue, and disorientation.
So our message to moms is not to worry and no your kids won’t die two days after swimming although it is also a good idea to monitor your kids if you believe that they have swallowed or inhaled water while swimming.
One last thing. If you are unsure about any symptoms your child is experiencing, or you are concerned about the information you’ve read in an article, never be afraid to consult your pediatric provider. That’s what they are there for. Now that you know that you don’t have to be concerned about dry drowning, you can focus on real drowning prevention and have fun swimming with your kids this summer.
All media inquiries can be directed to Lifeguard Chief Ed Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org