A four-year-old boy in Harris County, Texas, died a week after going swimming at the Texas City Dike. The cause: “dry drowning.”
Francisco Delgado Jr. says he and his family went on a trip to the dike in Texas City, USA Today reports. After almost a week, he called 911 because his son, Frankie, had suddenly stopped breathing. The boy had been exhibiting symptoms similar to a stomach illness for a few days, including vomiting and diarrhea.
The doctors found fluid in Frankie’s lungs and around his heart, and concluded that the toddler might have died from what is known as “dry drowning.”
Dry drowning, or secondary drowning, can happen hours after a child has suffered a near-drowning incident. If left untreated, this condition can lead to brain injuries, respiratory problems, and even death. This rare occurrence mostly happens to young children.
After a child inhales water through the mouth or nostrils, the water can get into the lungs. The lungs can then contract, making breathing difficult, and the lungs can fill with fluid.
A child who ingests as little as a “few gasps” of water can be at risk of experiencing dry drowning later, according to Purva Grover, medical director of Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric emergency departments. In 2015, Grover said,
You might not witness your child inhale any pool water, but it’s important to watch out for signs soon after an event that could cause dry drowning.
Grover said that kids can begin showing symptoms of dry drowning 24 to 48 hours after ingesting water. Symptoms can include coughing, fever, vomiting, mood swings and struggling for breath. Parents who notice these symptoms in their children should take them to the emergency room right away, for observation. If there is fluid in the lungs, a doctor may decide to drain them.
While dry drowning is extremely rare, Grover said that it’s best if parents are cautious. “My best advice is when a child has a near-drowning event in the water, the first thing is to get a professional opinion.”