We have talked previously about what drowning actually looks like; that the media has led us to believe that those are drowning put their hands in the air and call out for help, which we understand is physiologically not possible. Now that we’ve started to educate people on what to look out for in terms of drowning, we wanted to introduce the concepts of Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning (also referred to as submersion injuries).
Dry Drowning – dry drowning is when a small amount of water is ingested through the swimmer’s nose and/or mouth, and it causes a spasm in the airway, causing it to close up.
*These drowning usually happens soon after leaving the water.
Secondary Drowning –secondary drowning is when a small amount of water gets into the lungs of the swimmer, which causes inflammation or swelling, making it difficult or impossible for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide and vice versa.
*There can be a delay of up to 24hrs before the person shows signs of distress.
Dry/Secondary Drownings are very rare (only accounting for about 2% of drowning incidents, however still an essential piece of information to be well versed on as an Aquatics Professional.
What to look out for:
- Chest pain
- Trouble breathing (rapid, shallow breathing; nostril flaring; being able to see between the swimmer’s ribs or the gap above their collarbone when they breath).
- Feeling extremely tired
- Forgetfulness or change in behaviour
A dip in oxygen level could cause your child to feel sick/woozy or irritable
- Throwing up.
This could be a sign of stress from the body as a result of inflammation or a lack of oxygen
What to do?
First and foremost, get medical help. It may be the case that the symptoms are mild and will go away on their own, however it’s still important to get a medical clearance. When in emergency, it is likely your swimmer will undertake a chest x-ray, an IV, and be admitted for observations. Generally speaking, these things cannot be undertaken in a doctor’s surgery, so the hospital is advised.
Any problems that do develop are usually treatable if you get medical care immediately upon observations of the warning signs.
- Never leave your swimmer alone near any amount of water - even in your home (including the bath)
- Monitor your swimmer during lessons to ensure they are not ingesting too much water, and are taking a full breath before heading back under the water
- Being able to swim is not a safeguard against drowning. Use the additional strategies in our Wandering and Drowning Prevention Toolkit to mitigate the risks - http://autismswim.com.au/product/wandering-drowning-prevention-toolkit/