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What is dry drowning?

Many people have never heard of the deadly phenomenon known as "dry drowning." The condition, which is similar to the related condition of secondary drowning, is more prevalent during the summer months.

Physicians see an uptick in dry drowning victims in the emergency rooms because more children and adults spend time in the water during the hot months of summer.

Dry drowning occurs most frequently when somebody is struggling in the water and takes water in, triggering spasms that impede breathing.

Secondary drowning results from fluid accumulating in the lungs and causing deadly pulmonary edemas.

Near drowning victims typically are at highest risk for the two conditions, but, especially in children, the conditions can arise from simply being playfully dunked underwater. All that is necessary is that water is taken into the body for it to become a medical emergency.

What is so insidious about the conditions is that neither may be immediately apparent. The symptoms may show up later, causing breathing problems and brain injuries from lack of oxygen.

Below are some symptoms to be alerted to:

-- Problems with breathing

-- Behavioral changes

-- Coughing

-- Chest pain

-- Fatigue

Because the symptoms appear rather vague, especially in children, it can be hard to spot. Parents should be alerted to the potential problems if their child had any type of adverse event while at the beach or pool.

Lifeguards must pay close attention to anyone who is struggling in the water. It is important to strictly enforce the rules prohibiting horseplay in the water, including dunking others underwater. Distractions like texting, talking on the phone or talking with others can open the door for liability for the lifeguard and the owner of the property if someone drowns while under the lifeguard's supervision.

Source: WebMD, "What Are Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning?," Emily Newman, accessed July 03, 2015

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