KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Secondary drowning is a term that’s being thrown around on social media and even in news reports recently, and while it’s getting a lot of attention now, doctors say it’s been a problem for as long as people have been around water.
With summer officially here, it’s a good time to remind parents what it is and what to do if your kids are acting strangely after swimming.
A little boy named Ronin nearly died weeks ago. Ronin accidentally ended up in the water, but his mom got him out in seconds. Still, he had inhaled enough water to nearly kill him due to something called secondary drowning according to a blog by his mom.
“It’s the body’s reaction to the water. What happens is when they go under the water, they get a little bit of chlorine or salt water in their lungs and then over time, over 6 to 12 hours, the body reacts to that. That’s when they get inflammation in the lungs and then they get fluid in the lungs,” said Dr. Sarah Hoehn from the University of Kansas Hospital.
According to Dr. Hoehn, secondary drowning usually only happens when someone nearly drowns.
“Kids every day at swimming pools cough and choke a little bit. The question is: Did they get enough to cause this whole body reaction?” Dr. Hoehn said.
The way parents can tell if their kid is in danger is by closely monitoring the way they act after swimming for example, are they walking differently, maybe having accidents? If you suspect something’s wrong, don’t allow them to sleep.
“You do have to worry about putting them to sleep because if they’re not aware that their oxygen level is low, they might just go to sleep and not wake up,” Dr. Hoehn warned.
Instead the best course of action is to take them to the emergency room to check on their oxygen levels.
The good news is, if it’s caught in time, a few days on a ventilator can allow someone to make a full recovery, much like little Ronin did.
Dr. Hoehn says secondary drowning is very rare, but she also reminds us that drowning is the second most common form of death in children besides motor vehicle accidents. She says following simple water safety rules can prevent drowning or secondary drowning.