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Dry Drowning Should Serve As A Warning To Parents

Posted on June 7, 2008

The death of a 10-year-old South Carolina this week while lying in his own bed, has brought attention to the little known “dry drowning,”  that could happen to any child about to have fun in a pool this summer.

Johnny Jackson had gone for a swim in his neighborhood. He came home and was fine, but hours later he started showing signs that something was wrong.

His mother says he soiled himself, and then started talking slowly. He was sleepy. He lay down to take a nap and about one hour later he was dead.

Parents need to understand how you asphyxiate from dry drowning.   When water gets into the lungs, and it doesn’;t have to be much, the lungs then are unable to take oxygen from the air because they are immersed in fluid. 

Wikipedia says that basically when you breath, the diaphragm contracts, increases the volume of air into the lungs from the outside.  During dry drowning, the person’;s larynx spasm shuts.  Air does not rush into the lungs.  The heart is beating the blood flowing but it is not picking up oxygen.

Dry drowning sometimes occurs when water forcefully enters a person such as through an activity like high diving or sliding down a long steep slide, any activity where they can breath water into the lungs.  But the signs of dry drowning can be delayed, and doctors don’;t know why.

Signs are extreme fatigue and strange behavior which results from a reduction in oxygen to the brain. They need to get to an emergency room and have a breathing tube inserted so oxygen  can be forced into the lungs so they heal on their own.

3,600 people drowned in 2005 according to the CDC. About 10 to 15 percent were dry drownings which can occur up to 24 hours after a small amount of water is breathed into the lungs.  It can even happen during a bath.

In Johnny’;s case, doctors believe that he had a reduced oxygen flow to his brain.  The treatment would have been to get him to the emergency room as quickly as possible. 

But that is very difficult for a parent to know Cassandra Jacksons says, “I feel like someone reached in and grabbed my heart and just yanked it out.” 

We are sorry for her loss. Perhaps it can serve as a warning to others, whose children suddenly exhibit strange behavior after spending time in a pool.